MIAMI—Virgin Hotels, the lifestyle hotel brand by Richard Branson, has named Rani Gharbié as VP of development. Gharbié, who is located in New York City, will oversee the brand’s continued expansion in the U.S. and into Canada.
“As an avid traveler with a deep understanding of the hotel industry, it’s an amazing opportunity to join the Virgin Hotels team. They’ve introduced a hotel experience guests identify with and are excited about, and that’s difficult to do in what is a very crowded market,” said Gharbié. “I’m proud to be a new steward for the brand as we look to keep up the admirable growth in the United States and make our move into Canada.”
Gharbié joins the development team led by Allie Hope, head of development and acquisitions, and will identify partners and investors to secure not only new-build sites, but also conversion opportunities in an effort to grow the management arm of the brand. Aspiring to continue the current momentum of Virgin Hotels’ growing pipeline, Gharbié aims to work with strategic partners that align with the brand’s culture and values, creating authentic working relationships that can grow in additional markets.
“I’m thrilled to have someone like Rani leading the charge in North America. His knowledge of the way the hotel and real estate industry work together is unparalleled, and he’s someone we’re proud to have represent the Virgin Hotels brand as we continue to meet our development goals,” said Hope.
Most recently, Gharbié was a founding principal at Cedar Funds, a New York City-based hotel and real estate development and investment firm, with a focus on ground-up projects and the acquisition of underperforming assets.
Prior to launching Cedar Funds in 2013, he held key positions in the hotel and real estate industries for nearly 20 years, including regional director of development at InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), where he was responsible for expanding IHG’s premier hotel brands, including InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and Indigo, across the Middle East and Africa. Gharbié is also currently an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s masters in real estate program.