Michael Allen Leven, also known as Mike, has served the hospitality industry for more than 50 years. Throughout his career, Mike has garnered nearly every award and recognition one can receive in the hotel industry, and he’s recognized by many as an industry icon and an innovative pioneer. In 2014, AH&LA presented Leven with a lifetime achievement award at the annual Americas Lodging Investment Conference.
Mike grew up in a modest 3-family home in Boston, and attended a tough, inner-city high school. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Tufts University, and a Master of Science degree in public relations and communications from Boston University. In 1961, Mike landed his first position in the industry as the sales promotion manager of the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City, where he earned $495 per month, free lunch, and the promise of a $40 per month retirement pension after 40 years of service.
After the Roosevelt, Mike moved into the operations side of hotel management with the Dunphy Company. After 23 years in various marketing and operations positions, Mike landed his first presidency with Americana Hotels & Realty in 1984, a position that didn’t last that long because the company sold out the assets shortly after he arrived. In 1985, Mike was recruited to serve as President of Days Inn Corporation, his first long term presidency, and he led the company through a reorganization resulting in significant growth from a regional chain to one of the largest brands in the world. From 1990 to 1995, Mike served as President and Chief Operating Officer of Holiday Inns Worldwide, and oversaw the launch and significant growth of the new Holiday Inn Express brand.
In 1995, Mike founded U.S. Franchise Systems Inc. (USFS), which franchises the Microtel, Hawthorn and Best Inns & Suites hotel brands, and served as its Chief Executive Officer and President from October 1995 to December 2006. Mike then served as Vice Chairman of the Marcus Foundation, Inc. from January 2006 to September 2008, and Chief Executive Officer of the Georgia Aquarium, Inc. from September 2008 to 2009. From there, Mike moved on to serve as the President and Chief Operating Officer of Las Vegas Sands, leading their expansion into the Asia market, where it is a dominant player in China.
One of Mike’s prouder career accomplishments was providing Days Inn funds and resources to co-found the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) in 1989. In 2010, he created the Michael and Andrea Leven Family Foundation, which concentrates on three areas: free enterprise, the Jewish community, and oil independence.
Two viruses emerged in the U.S. this year – COVID-19 and society’s backlash against racism. The coronavirus pandemic forced hotels to close or drastically cut back on their workforces as occupancy plummeted to unprecedented lows. And America’s streets resounded with the voices of citizens protesting racism as businesses began to respond by promising new and better commitments toward diversity, inclusion and equality in hiring and promotion. In Episode 288 of Lodging Leaders podcast, we explore the issues hotels are facing in bringing back laid-off workers and recruiting new employees in the midst of a health pandemic that seems to have no end and society’s desperate call for Corporate America to get serious about ending systemic racism.
Extended-stay hotels are weathering the coronavirus crisis better than their transient cousins, according to reports. The Highland Group’s half-year report shows economy and mid-priced extended-stay hotels are faring better than upscale extended-stay accommodations. Second-quarter earnings reports from companies such as Extended Stay America prove the resiliency of the sector, especially when sales teams shift their focus to new prospects such as college students, leisure travelers who value the kitchen and essential workers in it for the long haul. Long Live Lodging examines what gives extended-stay its muscle in a weak economy. This report is part of our ongoing coverage of the coronavirus crisis and its impact on the hotel industry.