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.
Lodging Econometrics has tracked the hotel industry since 1998. Its global database includes new-hotel pipelines as well as renovations and brand conversions. Hotel franchisers once eager to launch new brands are focused on converting existing hotels because it’s a faster way to recover revenue lost to the COVID-19 pandemic than through new construction. In Episode 346, Lodging Leaders explores the increasing number of conversions in the U.S. hotel industry and what owners and operators need to consider before repositioning an asset.
In the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., financiers anticipated a swell of distressed hotel businesses. Some raised rescue funds to respond to what they thought was a pending crisis. Though there are financial rescues taking place, the level of such activity is far below what industry advisers and fund managers expected. Commercial real estate investors positioned to act in the early days of the pandemic held off and are now just beginning to unleash their cash hoards totaling billions of dollars. Episode 345 of Lodging Leaders podcast explores the state of capital investment in the hotel industry.