ORLANDO, Fla.—Michael W. Sansbury, whose career in hospitality spanned nearly 40 years, passed away last week at age 59, according to his family.
Spending his recent years as partner of Over 5 Hospitality, a consulting firm with offices in Florida and California and a client roster that included Spirit Dance Hospitality, Teton Springs Lodge & Spa, Waterford Hotel Group, and Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Sansbury was well known throughout the industry for his management role on large-scale projects, and with many of the industry’s leading hotel brands.
“Michael was a brilliant hotelier who had a true understanding of the industry,” said long-time colleague, Bryan Guillot, who manages his own hospitality sales/marketing consulting firm, Thomas Lee Group, and worked with Sansbury for more than 20 years in various capacities. “Michael will be remembered fondly for his stellar achievements and contributions to the industry. We are all truly saddened by the loss of a great leader.”
For more than two years, Sansbury served as executive vice president of hotel operations as part of the start-up development team for Baha Mar Resorts, the $2 billion destination resort under construction in Nassau, Bahamas. Sansbury also served as chief operating officer for Cable Beach Resort, a cluster of three Nassau properties under the same Baha Mar ownership group.
Prior to that, Sansbury spent seven years (1997 to 2004) as regional vice president and managing director for Loews Hotels, where he was responsible for the pre-opening planning and operation of three hotels at the Universal Orlando Resort in Orlando, Florida; Portofino Bay Hotel; Hard Rock Hotel; and the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. Under Sansbury’s leadership, Loews Hotels in Orlando were named one of the “Top 25 Best Places to Work” by the Orlando Business Journal (2004) with many of the properties receiving numerous distinctions including rankings on Travel & Leisure’s “Top 100 Hotels”; Conde Nast Traveler’s “Gold List of the World’s Best Places to Stay”; “Gold Key Award”; and “Pinnacle Award”.
Sansbury also served as vice president of hotel operations for Mirage Resorts, Las Vegas where he was responsible for all hotel operations and hotel marketing for this 3,044-room, premier casino resort with 6,000 employees and annual occupancy in excess of 98 percent. He was also involved in the design development of the company’s 3,000-room Bellagio Hotel and Casino, as well as the grand opening of the 3,000-room Treasure Island Resort.
Sansbury’s longest career stint was with Westin Hotels & Resorts, where he spent 19 years growing his management expertise while working for some of the brand’s most iconic properties including the Walt Disney World Swan; The Mayflower, Washington D.C.; The Westin Hotel, Vail, Colorado; The Westin Copley Place, Boston; and The Carlton Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa.
From 1979-1981, Sansbury had a unique opportunity to join The White House, Washington D.C. staff as administrative officer responsible for setting up the management systems and practices for housekeeping, food and beverage, purchasing and other hotel-type operations for the Executive Residence at The White House, Washington D.C.
Highly dedicated to the industry, Sansbury lent his time and energies to many of the industry’s leading associations as director, president, chairman or board member. These included the Bahamas Hotel Association, Nassau/Paradise Island Promotion Board, Florida Hotel & Motel Association, Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association, Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Rosen School of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida, Cornell Hotel Society and Nevada Hotel & Motel Association.
Resorts and hotels under Sansbury’s direction earned national acclaim for quality, creativity and guest satisfaction. Industry accolades have included Resort Executive of the Year (2002), Annual Resort Conference/University of Denver and YPBR; Chairman’s Award of Merit Loews Hotels (2002); Hotelier of the Year, Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association (2000); and Southeast Region Alumnus of the Year, Cornell Hotel Society.
From 2008 to 2012, Sansbury also served as Executive in Residence at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University – his alma mater – where he was a guest lecturer for numerous classes, advised administration, faculty and staff and mentored graduate and undergraduate students.
Sansbury was raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is survived by his parents Harriet and Bill Sansbury, former wife and best friend Ann Humes Sansbury, beloved daughter Tayler Humes Sansbury, brother Tim (Jana) Sansbury, sisters Joyce (Preston) Quirk and Vicki (Marty) Koppenhafer and numerous nieces and nephews.
Should you wish to honor Michael, the family asks that any donations in his name be made to the Michael W. Sansbury Memorial Scholarship, which provides undergraduate scholarship support for students enrolled in the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration.
To make a donation, contact Meg Hardie Keilbach, Director of Alumni Affairs and Development, School of Hotel Administration, Cornell University, at 607-592-0421. For online donations, go to http://www.hotelschool.cornell.edu/alumni/giving/makeagift.html.
Cards to the family may be sent to Mr. and Mrs. William J. Sansbury, 8650 S. Ocean Drive, Jensen Beach, Florida, 34957.