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WINEGARDNER’S NEW CEO, MIKE CONWAY, PLANS TO DOUBLE THE SIZE OF THE COMPANY

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April 6, 2015
EXCLUSIVE: Here’s how Winegardner’s new CEO plans to double the size of the company
Tom Demeropolis
Senior Staff Reporter-Cincinnati Business Courier
Winegardner & Hammons Inc., the Blue Ash-based hotel management company, has a new CEO.

Effective April 3, Mike Conway is now chief executive of Winegardner. J. Erik Kamfjord, who has served as chairman and CEO since 2000, is now chairman emeritus.

As Winegardner’s top executive, Conway has aggressive plans to double the company’s revenue in the next decade. While Conway declined to disclose Winegardner’s revenue, the company has about 2,200 employees, most of them across the 24 hotels the company manages, with 85 at its Blue Ash corporate offices.

To grow the company, Conway is focused on serving the growing millennial business traveler and expanding the firm’s new development pipeline.

Right now, millennials represent 30 percent of business travelers, Conway said. That number will jump to more than 70 percent by the end of the decade.

“If you’re not designing and building for that segment, you’re not building the right hotel,” Conway told me.

Baby boomers remain a key segment, and will be for some time, but Conway is keeping an eye on the future.

With that in mind, Conway is looking to add more of the lifestyle brands that Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt offer, such as AC Hotels by Marriott. Conway said 70 percent of the company’s growth will come from new development, with the rest coming from other owners.

The rumored AC Hotels at the Banks in Cincinnati is expected to be managed by Winegardner. Conway said he couldn’t comment on that possibility at this time.

But Winegardner will start construction on a new Hyatt Place hotel in Austin, Texas this June. It’s also just been named the management company for the AC Hotels by Marriott in Louisville that is scheduled to break ground in August.Winegardner was chosen to manage a new Courtyard by Marriott hotel being developed by SouthEast Group in the historic urban core area of Jacksonville, Fla. And Conway said he’s looking at a site in downtown Columbus for a potential project, as well as Chandler, Ariz.

A little more than a year ago, Conway, who has been with Winegardner for more than 40 years, was promoted to president after serving as senior vice president of development.

As chairman emeritus, Kamfjord will continue to provide the company with guidance.

“He’s an outstanding leader in our company,” Conway told me. “He really is the architect of where we are today. It’s a major benefit to have his council, for me and our other executives.”

While most of Winegardner’s growth will come outside the Greater Cincinnati market, Conway said the company is looking at a few options in the region. He’s looking at the area surrounding the new Martin Luther King/Interstate 71 interchange as well as a number of different neighborhoods where there might be opportunities.

“We see a lot of markets. Cincinnati is certainly on the right path to improve the quality of life for everyone,” Conway said.

Winegardner manages 24 hotels in the U.S. and provides accounting services for 85 hotels. The Winegardner owned/managed portfolio includes resorts, all-suite, extended stay, lifestyle, full-service and conference center hotels.

Locally, Winegardner manages a number of hotels, including Residence Inn Cincinnati Downtown, Holiday Inn Cincinnati Riverfront, Cincinnati Marriott North in West Chester and DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel in Blue Ash.