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Indians, a Jew, and a Hotel Partnership

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
August 10, 2023 3:03 am

Indians, a Jew, and a Hotel Partnership

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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August 10, 2023 3:03 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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Listen to find strength in community on the MG journey on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. And we continue with Our America. And up next, you've heard from him before. And by the way, go to OurAmericanStories.com 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 have these message things with all the telephone calls, you know, you 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? Well, I'm the sales director for the Tolman Hundley Company and they're looking for to recommend somebody to be the president chief operating officer of days in. And I recommended you. I said, would you be interested?

I said, sure. Because we're selling 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 and I never really 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. Guy named Dan Danielli, who was supposed to be the guru of economy lodging or was just like budget hotels.

But the euphemism is economy lodging. You know, 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? Sue, you know, Cherokee? No, Indians from India. Oh, those are those Indians. I said so. So, so what? This is well, apparently Henry Silver and Salstein bought these in in September.

And it's now February or March the following year. And they sold off half of these hotels, many of them to these Indian hotel owners. Guys named Patel and Shah 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. Once again, the same, the establishment is, you know, whatever.

He's the guru of the consulting industry is 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, a guy shows up in my office named H.P. Rama. He's a very, very serious Hindu.

He comes to see me. He said, Mike, we have problems. We have 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 I said, come see me. But before we did that, I had my people study. A hundred 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 all this 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 called bring in Lee and HP. We have a meeting and I said, let's form an association. Let's call it 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 a hundred thousand bucks for budget to run a little conference convention, bring in some speakers, do some things like that. And then lead 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 twenty five dollars 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. Twenty thousand members. The biggest trade show in the hospitality industry. HP round became the president of A.H. and L.A., the American Hotel and Lodging Association is the first one. They own over 50 percent of the select service business in the country. Plus, they're all all the sons and 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 from one.

When I went to Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn, no one gave them franchises. I had to give them. I gave. 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. Fifty percent of all hotel franchises owned by this small group of Americans, the wealth they've amassed, understanding 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.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-10 04:38:11 / 2023-08-10 04:43:04 / 5

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