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Indians, a Jew, and a Hotel Partnership

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
January 23, 2023 3:01 am

Indians, a Jew, and a Hotel Partnership

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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January 23, 2023 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Mike Leven was President and Chief Operating Officer of Las Vegas Sands Corp. One of the great hoteliers of all time—a legend in his business. He is also what you would call a “wise man.” Here’s Mike telling the story about how he—a Jew—started the Asian American Hotel Owners Association.

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What up?

It's Dramos. You may know me from the recap on LATV. Now I've got my own podcast, Life as a Gringo, coming to you every Tuesday and Thursday. We'll be talking real and unapologetic about all things life, Latin culture and everything in between from someone who's never quite fit in.

Listen to Life as a Gringo on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. Brought to you by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. Four NFL teams, two conference championship games and only a few more shots to win big on the playoffs with DraftKings Sportsbook, an official sports betting partner of the NFL. Download the DraftKings Sportsbook app and use code DK1. New customers can bet $5 on the conference championships and get 200 in free bets instantly. Only at DraftKings Sportsbook with code DK1. 21 plus in most eligible states, but age varies by jurisdiction.

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Learn more about their clean standards and shop Clean at Sephora Beauty at And we continue with Our American Stories and up next, you've heard from him before and by the way, go to and you can hear Mike Levin tell all kinds of stories, not just about his life, but stories you can apply to yours. And that's why we have him tell them. Mike was the president and chief operating officer of Las Vegas Sands Corporation. Google is Singapore casino. Look at what he built and look at what he did in Las Vegas, the number of jobs he created, the options for Americans or people around the world to go to a great resort and enjoy some gambling and some entertainment and have it be safe and clean. Up next, Mike tells the story about he, a Jewish man, helped start the Asian American Hotel Owners Association. It's a heck of a story.

Take it away, Mike. Let's fast forward to 1985. I get the days in job and the interesting thing about getting the days in job was that I was referred to Henry Silverman by a guy that I had fired. There was a guy named Vic Appleby who was the sales director of the American Hotel in New York.

He was not doing a very good job and I had to let him go. And a few years later, I'm sitting in my office in Chicago and I'm on my way to the airport. I had a trip and I had these message things with all the telephone calls.

He didn't have no cell phones then. And I go to a pay phone, I call the guy back. I said, Vic, how are you? I haven't spoken to you for three or four years.

Why are you calling? He said, well, I'm the sales director for the Tolman Humley Company and they're looking to recommend somebody to be the president and chief operating officer of days in and I recommended you. I said, would you be interested? I said, sure, because we're selling the assets of Americana Hotels now and I'm not going to have a job in a few months. So anyway, I get the job. And in order to get the job, I'd never been in the economy lodging business and I never really, I had some franchises at Dunphy, we had some Sheridan franchises at Dunphy, but I never, and we had one franchise at Americana, but I was never really in the franchise business.

And it was very life-changing experience too. So I decided I would go and sit with a consultant who was at a consulting company in New York, a guy named Dan Danielli, who was supposed to be the guru of economy lodging, which is like budget hotels, but the euphemism is economy lodging. So I go see him and he said, oh yeah, I said, you know, you have all these curry palaces there.

I said, what's that? He said, well, they're owned by Indians. I said, what do you mean Indians? Sioux, you know, Cherokee? No, Indians from India. Oh, those are all those Indians. I said, so, so what?

He says, well, apparently Henry Silverman and Sal Steinberg bought days in in September and it's now February or March of the following year. And they sold off half of these hotels, many of them to these Indian hotel owners, guys named Patel and Shar and a few people like that as franchises. I said, so what are you telling me? He says, well, they're very difficult.

Why? Well, there's, you know, they call them curry palaces because they live in them and they cook. So the place smells of curry and this stuff and that and whatever. You know, once again, the same, the establishment is, you know, whatever. He's the guru of the consulting industry.

He's a nice guy too, actually. But once again, you know, this is the way people would label things. So I get the days in and I start meeting with these people. And about six or eight months later, I hear the same thing inside the company.

Well, the quality scores are down. They don't pay their bills. They're blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So I have a guy calls, comes into my office. A guy calls me up named Lee Dushov.

So who are you? He says, I do projects for people. I said, come and see me.

Just out of the blue. Really nice guy. Comes to see me and he says, look, he said, Mike, I just want to tell you something. If you've got a project that you can't do, call me, I'll do it. I said, what do you mean? He said, well, lots of times I find that people like to do new things in companies, but when they try to do it with the same people, they can't get them done.

Well, that makes sense. So he goes away. A couple of months later, the guy shows up in my office named HP Rama. He's a very, very serious Hindu.

He comes to see me. He said, Mike, we have problems. We had billboards up that say American owned, which is really derogatory to us because people are saying don't stay in a Patel owned hotel or an Indian owned hotel, stuff like that. We have problems getting loans from traditional companies and we can't get franchises from anybody else other than the lowest end of the pole. And I think he had a days in franchise to this guy. I said, I'll look into it.

So I talked to Duchov and he said, come see me. But before we did that, I had my people study the 100 or so Asian American owned hotels that we had. Give me the total amount of quality scores. Give me the receivables. Give me all the information on these hotels. It turns out they're exactly the same as anybody else in the chain.

There was absolutely, if anything, they paid better. I bring in Lee in HP. We have a meeting and I said, let's form an association. It's called the Asian American Hotel Association. HP, you get me another strong Asian guy like yourself, Indian guy like yourself.

I'll set up a board of people with some quote, white people, Asian people mixed. And we'll start a trade association with the mission being to take your rightful place in the American hotel lodging industry. So I went to Silverman.

I said, I need 100,000 bucks for a budget to run a little conference convention, bring in some speakers, do some things like that. And then Lee Duchov's job was to not only organize it and also help position the company and me in the industry with the Asians. So I marched in the India Independence Day parade in New York City. I did various things. He got me education.

I started reading Bhagavad Gita and other stuff and I learned more about Hinduism than the average person would ever know. We set the membership fee at $25 to join the association. We had a convention and the other industry people didn't show up to exhibit.

I was accused of doing it for business persons anyway. And you fast forward now, 20,000 members, the biggest trade show in the hospitality industry. H.P. Howard became the president of AH and LA, the American Hotel and Lodging Association is the first one. They own over 50% of the select service business in the country. Plus they're all sons in the next generation are all massively successful entrepreneurs. I sit on the board of an Asian American company that's worth over a billion dollar company that they built.

When I went to Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn, no one gave them franchises. Once I started to do it, they all started to do it. They jumped on the bandwagon.

And I gave a lot of speeches to Indian groups and whatever. And the best thing about it is, they never forget. They never forget. What's your nickname? Bapu.

What does that mean? Father. It was a name for Gandhi. They never forgot. They never forgot Bapu.

That's Mike's nickname. Any Indian hotelier, that's what they call them. And we can all be Bapu. And we can all help the other. And here's the irony. Mike understood the sting of discrimination and remembering the sign at the Breakers Hotel that said no Jews allowed. And by the way, the Jews were the richest per capita income group in this country, despite discrimination, only to be overcome 10 years ago by Indian Americans who were now number one. 50% of all hotel franchises owned by this small group of Americans, the wealth they've amassed, including capitalism, understanding free enterprise, working hard, risking and sacrificing the American dream wide open for every religion and skin color and minority religions like Jews and Hindus. A beautiful American story.

Mike Levin's story, Bapu's story, here on Our American Stories. Spring is here and it's time to spice up your look at Lulus, your one stop shop for affordable, high quality, fierce looks. Lulus carries dresses, jumpsuits, sweaters, shoes, two piece sets, tops, bottoms, accessories and more. Find your new hot look for spring break, vacate, girls night out, bachelorette party, wedding or date night. Create an account at and use code LulusFan20 to save 20% off your first order. That's LulusFan20. Terms and conditions apply.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-23 04:22:33 / 2023-01-23 04:27:54 / 5

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