Global 100: John Fitzpatrick, Fitzpatrick Hotel Group

Business | Thu 2 Aug | Author – Business & Finance
John Fitzpatrick

The Fitzpatricks have taken the Irish reputation for hospitality and run with it. The chain continues to go from strength to strength.

Last year, John Fitzpatrick, president and CEO of Fitzpatrick Hotel Group North America, celebrated the 40th anniversary of his family’s business in Ireland and the 20th anniversary of his company operating in New York.
When he opened the Fitzpatrick Manhattan in 1991, he blazed a trail by being the first Irish hotelier to open and operate a hotel in New York City. The four-star, 16-storey boutique hotel was built in 1926 and is four blocks from both Bloomingdale’s and Central Park.

In 1997, the four-star Fitzpatrick Grand Central Hotel was opened, only half a block from Grand Central Station, strengthening the group’s presence in New York. Since his arrival in New York, the hotels themselves and in particular John Fitzpatrick, have become focal points around which the Irish-American community has moved. That Taoiseach Enda Kenny opted to attend the Fitzpatrick family’s 40th anniversary celebrations, shows the level of esteem in which Fitzpatrick and his family are held in terms of Irish-American relations.

In Ireland, the Fitzpatrick Hotel Group runs the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel overlooking Dublin Bay, in the leafy suburb of Killiney. The hotel, an 18th century castle, has been family run since 1971 when Fitzpatrick’s late parents, Eithne and Paddy, founded it. Fitzpatrick’s sister, Eithne Scott-Lennon, continues to run the hotel with her family.

Fitzpatrick joined the family business at entry level some 24 years ago to develop a full understanding of the hotelier’s trade. After completing a four-year management training programme in Ireland, he undertook the prestigious hotel management programme at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. After practical experience working at two major brand hotels in Chicago, he returned to help manage the family hotels at Bunratty Castle and in Dublin.

Despite an in increase in supply in the hotel sector in New York, where an additional 4,000 rooms were added in the city last year, Fitzpatrick Hotels has managed to increase both profit and turnover. According to an Irish Times report, pre-tax profits increased by a third to $2.7mn in the 12 months to the end of September 2011, with turnover rising to just under $23mn last year, compared with $21.7mn in 2010.

Fitzpatrick always has an eye on potential business opportunities. And in 2001, he opened the 140-room Fitzpatrick Chicago at a cost of $22mn. After a period of development, he first considered converting it to a privately- owned hotel/condominium complex but eventually sold when presented with an offer he “couldn’t refuse” – this has been estimated at around $200,000 per room, or $28mn in total.

Being a discerning business traveller himself, Fitzpatrick’s establishments appeal to the business executive with the utmost in modern amenities. The Fitzpatrick Manhattan, The Fitzpatrick Grand Central and even the sold Fitzpatrick Chicago Hotel have continuously received guest and industry accolades for outstanding service.

In 2006, Fitzpatrick was named chairman of the influential Hotel Association of New York City, which comprises more than 260 member hotels, with more than 70,000 hotel rooms within the five boroughs of New York City. He maintains this post today and also serves on the board of both the American Ireland Fund and the Ireland-US Council.

A recipient of many professional accolades, Fitzpatrick was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honour in 2002, an award previously bestowed on Bill Clinton, Rudy Guiliani and a number of Nobel laureates.

Fitzpatrick is very active in a number of charitable organisations, and he founded a charitable foundation in memory of his late parents to benefit such causes. The Eithne and Paddy Fitzpatrick Memorial Foundation has been in existence for 16 years, and has generated over €1.5mn for charities such as the Barretstown Gang Camp, the Corrymeela Reconciliation Centre, and PeacePlayers International.

“My parents were a tremendous influence on me, and they taught me so much about what is really important in life,” he has said of the foundation. “I wanted to do something to make sure that they would always be remembered. The foundation we started in their name honours them by raising money for these two great charities.”