Since becoming president at the Milwaukee-based Marcus Hotels and Resorts in January, Kirk Rose has been engulfed in a whirlwind of activity. Aside from learning the ins and outs of the company, Rose has been saddled with a 90-mile commute from his home in the Chicago suburbs. Until he relocates, you can find Rose living in the company-owned Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee three nights a week. Not too shabby. As a former partner in the private equity group Salt Creek Hospitality LLC, Rose plans to leverage his development and financial asset management expertise to supercharge growth of the Marcus portfolio.
LODGING: You have a graduate degree in law but went on to work for Hyatt for nine years. What led to your transition into the hospitality industry?
ROSE: It was a little by accident. I worked as a lawyer for 15 years. When the Pritzker family first hired me, Hyatt was one asset within the number of companies they owned. I was brought in to be their internal lawyer with some additional responsibilities. As the family decided to break up the empire and distribute their assets, the liquidity and the investment strategy changed overnight. So my job changed from being one that was less Hyatt-centric to one that was completely Hyatt-centric. It was almost like I was auditioning for the CFO job. I arranged months of financing, then I got the CFO job in 2002, and I was in charge of getting the company ready to go public in 2006.
LODGING: With the addition of the Cornhusker Marriott in Lincoln, Neb., and the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North last year, Marcus now owns or manages 20 properties. What is the company’s growth plan for 2013?
ROSE: The Cornhusker was 100 percent invested by Marcus Corp., and we own half the portfolio today. I think our goal would be to grow more through management with the expectation that we can use our great balance sheet to invest alongside with the primary equity investor. We’re certainly more than willing to put sliver equity in so we can grow in a variety of different ways, including acquisitions if we saw the right one come along. We would not be averse to acquiring portfolios or partnering with somebody to acquire a portfolio.
LODGING: In what markets do you see development opportunities?
ROSE: Our reputation is based in the Midwest and it seems like many of the opportunities come to us because we’re here. Our pipeline appears to be doing fairly well because of that—we’ll see in the next few years. I would like to see us focus on the Southeast and the East Coast. There are plenty of opportunities in submarkets of the larger cities that would be perfect for us.
LODGING: Is the company interested in exploring a particular segment?
ROSE: We’re watching the uptick in limited service with interest. We have a couple of limited-service products and, if we could get some scale, we would be interested in doing more, especially in the upscale limited-service area. I was with Hyatt when we acquired AmeriSuites, which we converted into the Hyatt Place brand. I’m a big fan of that segment—Courtyard, Hilton Garden Inn—I think they offer a very competitive product to the full-service hotels in the submarkets. In fact, they compete better. And then in downtown urban areas, they’re really coming on strong.