HB ON THE SCENE: Virgin Group To Launch Lifestyle Brand

PHOENIX—At the Lodging Conference here Virgin Group revealed plans to launch a new four-star, lifestyle hotel brand under the moniker of Virgin Hotels.

As part of the launch plan, Virgin Group has established a property venture that will acquire $500 million of Virgin-branded assets in the next three years. The company, which will have the expertise of experienced hotel veterans Raul Leal and Paul Whetsell, has plans to develop and operate up to 25 hotels within seven years, with the first property expected to open within 12 to 18 months.

The Virgin Hotels management team will be led by executive director Anthony Marino, who serves as managing partner of Virgin Group’s leisure and hospitality sector. Leal, who was most recently president of Desires Hotels, will serve as president and COO for Virgin. Whetsell, president and CEO of Capstar Hotel Co., will advise Virgin Hotels on operations and acquisitions and also serve on the board of directors.

Properties for the brand initially would be located in gateway cities in North America and would have 150 to 400 guestrooms.