BOSTON—Jeffrey Saunders, president, CEO and co-owner of Saunders Hotel Group, a third-generation hotel management business, has passed away.
A 1979 graduate of the Cornell University School of Hotel Management, he began his career with positions at the Ritz-Carlton Boston and Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City before joining the family business.
He was the consummate hotelier, revered by his team and instrumental in building the group into Boston’s premier independent hotel management company. Saunders’ talents touched all areas of planning and operations for the hotels and his compassion and caring nature touched all those with whom he interacted.
Under the original leadership of his grandfather, Irving and then his father, Roger, and for the last 40 years as partner with his brother, Gary, the Saunders organization became known for its unique culture as well as the acquisition, turnaround, and long-term, hands-on management of hotels in Boston. Earlier in his career, before becoming CEO, Jeffrey held the position of general manager and managing director at the family-owned hotels including the Boston Park Plaza Hotel & Towers, the Copley Square and Lenox Hotels.
He helped redevelop what is now the Loews Boston, a luxury boutique hotel in the former Boston Police Headquarters building on Boston’s Berkeley St. which opened in 2004, as well as the ground-up development of the first new airport hotel that had been built in 20 years, the Comfort Inn & Suites Logan Airport, which opened in 2000. In addition, he was involved in several other hotel deals and hospitality real estate funds over the years, including, most recently, the Raffles Boston Hotel and Residences, the first of its kind in North America, which is now under construction and slated to open in 2022.
Saunders actively participated in many hospitality, civic and philanthropic activities. He was a long-time supporter and board member of Combined Jewish Philanthropies, The Friends of the Boston Park Rangers Mounted Unit and numerous other charitable organizations.
He was past president of the Massachusetts Lodging Association and served as president of the New England Chapter of the Cornell Society of Hotelmen. He was a board member of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau. He acted as a delegate at the White House Conference on Travel and Tourism and sat on the board of advisors of the Boston University School of Hospitality Administration, aiding in the inception of that program.
He also served on the board of the Elizabeth Bishop Wine Resource Center at Boston University, and was the founder and past chair of the New England Hotel Lodging Roundtable.
He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Debra, and his children, Stephanie and Alexander and his fiancée, Anni Witt.
Service at Temple Israel, 477 Longwood Ave., Boston on Friday, January 31 at 10:30am. Burial and Shiva are private.
In lieu of flowers, remembrances in memory of Jeffrey Saunders may be made to the Adult Brain Tumor Research Fund, c/o Dr. Patrick Wen, Center for Neuro-Oncology, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, 450 Brookline Ave., Boston, MA 02215