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.
Ginny Morrison of Evanston, Illinois, is a 33-year veteran of Spire Hospitality, a hotel management company with a portfolio that spans coast-to-coast. As vice president of sales and marketing, Morrison saw the coronavirus pandemic decimate the meetings business. More than a year later, she’s witnessing a comeback as small-meeting planners are actively booking events for the last half of 2021 and beyond. As public health agencies expand COVID-19 vaccination programs across the U.S. and states ease up on public-gathering restrictions designed to keep the virus at bay, the hotel industry is seeing small meetings begin a comeback. In Episode 317, Long Live Lodging covers the state of the small-meetings sector and how hotels can grab their share of the meetings business during and post-pandemic. This report is part of our ongoing coverage about the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the hospitality industry.
The Hunter Hotel Investment Conference will be the industry’s first large event to be held during the coronavirus pandemic. The Atlanta event will be a hybrid format of in-person and virtual access, also an industry first. Lee Hunter, chairman of the conference, knows the level of expectation is high among other conference planners as well as industry professionals eager to network after more than a yearlong hiatus. Episode 316 of Lodging Leaders podcast features Hunter as he tells what it takes to re-launch the industry’s conference circuit amid the COVID-19 outbreak.