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Financial Times | June 15, 2007

Marriott and Schrager link on boutique hotels

By Roger Blitz in London

Marriott is developing a boutique hotel brand with Ian Schrager, credited as the man who revived the boutique hotel concept, planning 100 such hotels across US, Europe and Asia.

The partnership aims to have five hotel deals signed by the end of the year and the remainder built or under development within 10 years.

Mr Schrager and Steve Rubell created Studio 54, the hedonistic dance venue in New York in the late 70s, then the Morgan, Royalton and Paramount hotels which became magnets for guests and New York residents to socialise. Marriott and the Schrager Company aim to recruit world-class architects to build what they call “one-of-a-kind” hotels of between 150 and 200 rooms.

Marriott, which has 2,900 hotels across 18 brands, will manage and operate the hotels rather than own them, in keeping with their other brands.

Bill Marriott Jr, chairman and chief executive of Marriott International, said it had been looking at the boutique hotel sector for some time. “We are not in this space, we’re nowhere,” he told the Financial Times.

Mr Marriott Jr said he expected the new brand to attract business travellers the company had failed to bring to other brands. “It’s not huge, but it’s a really important segment for us that positions us with a lot of other customers that are different.”

Mr Schrager said the entrance of leading hotel groups into the boutique hotel sector was overdue. “People want something that is not monotonously similar to every other product out there,” he said.

Asked if the idea of a big hotel group running a boutique brand was not somewhat contradictory, Mr Schrager said: “You can have variety and originality on a grand scale. The contradiction is with some companies who do something derivative of what you’re doing, and trying to say it was hip.”