Eric Danziger describes himself as a worker bee. As a young teenager, he would find ways to earn money around his San Francisco neighborhood: Mowing lawns, delivering papers, and even selling cherries he picked from a nearby orchard in front of his house for, in his words, “a hell of a markup.” As he got older, he waded into the working world proper, getting his first experience with franchises at McDonald’s, where he earned a little more than $1 an hour. Out of high school, he went after his first hotel industry job, becoming a management trainee at the local Fairmont hotel. At the Fairmont, Danziger trained in all areas of the hotel—from bellman to front desk to the catering office. Once he had a certain amount of experience under his belt, he heard about an opportunity at a hotel in San Diego and off he went to pursue his hospitality career.
Over the course of his more than 45 years in the hotel industry, Danziger has held many high level positions. He has served as president and COO of Carlson Hotels, president and CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, president and CEO of Wyndham Hotel Group, and president and CEO of Hampshire Hotel Group, which Danziger rebranded as the Début Hotel Group. Today, he is CEO of a hospitality company that has, since November of last year, become a source of controversy all over the world—Trump Hotels.
Danziger joined Trump Hotels as its first ever CEO in August 2015. He was approached by Ivanka, Donald Jr., and Eric Trump just as he was considering retiring from the hotel industry. “We had a total of three meetings and just clicked,” he describes. “And I respected the way they came to me because the company had never had a CEO before. They said, ‘We need to find a person who we can trust to lead this company into a new future, and we think that’s you.’”
However, Danziger was initially wary. “The first outside CEO in any family-run company usually leaves fairly quickly because the family is not used to deferring to another entity. But this was the complete opposite. My leadership was fully embraced.”
Over the past two years, Danziger has helped launch two new brands for the Trump organization: Scion, a lifestyle brand that was launched late last year, and American IDEA, a midscale brand launched at this year’s NYU Investment Conference in New York City.
American IDEA is a first for the Trump brand, which has, until now, focused solely on luxury properties. The brand was conceived during Donald Trump’s presidential campaign rallies in 2015 and 2016. His children took notice of all of the small markets throughout the middle of the United States just itching for a more personalized product to meet travelers’ needs. “For me, the brand calls attention to every city in this country’s heritage and history. We want to create hotels that tell travelers about the town where they’re staying and do something that celebrates the surrounding community.” As of press time, three American IDEA properties have signed to the brand, with the first hotel planned to open in the Mississippi Delta. “It’s the perfect place to launch this brand,” Danziger says.
This year also marks a major milestone for the Trump Hotels brand—its 10th anniversary. “We have much to celebrate, not just on the hotel front, but also in regard to golf, resort, and residential development. And being able to launch a new brand in addition to this milestone is just icing on the cake,” Danziger describes.
Danziger notes that beyond the Trump Hotels anniversary, it is a very interesting time to be CEO of this particular hotel brand. Although he joined the company before what he refers to as “all that political noise,” Danziger has had to adjust quickly to working for a brand founded by and named for Donald Trump, whose presidency has garnered a lot of attention and controversy. “It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had,” he says. “And it’s difficult to gauge how I’m doing. I’m the only person who has ever been the CEO of a company when its owner ran for President of the United States and won.”
Danziger is very focused on continuing to expand Trump Hotels, despite any negativity surrounding the President. “We deal with this every day, and all we can do is develop and operate great hotels.”