Zero to SIXTY: New exec to accelerate growth plans

NEW YORK—In an ironic title exchange, some five months after SIXTY Hotels’ first president, Jim Biggars, moved on to Philadelphia-based HHM as EVP/operations, his replacement was marking his fifth day on the job, ready and eager to lead the luxury boutique group—a former competitor—to the next level.

Industry veteran Kevin Osterhaus, most recently EVP/ops at Standard International, parent of the eclectic Standard and Bunkhouse brands, stepped into the president’s role Feb. 27 to helm SIXTY Hotels, the proprietary brand of SIXTY Collective, the firm formed in 2013 by the Pomeranc brothers—Jason, Michael and Lawrence (Larry)—along with well-known entrepreneur and hotelier, Stephen Brandman.

Osterhaus now has responsibility for SIXTY Hotels daily operations and its five hotels: three in New York City, one in Beverly Hills and one in Miami’s South Beach district, with expectations of moving the needle on expansion plans for the lifestyle brand. 

Settling into his Manhattan office, the executive’s assessment of the brand was positive in terms of its core attributes.

“SIXTY has all of the necessary components. It has amazing hotel experiences and teams and that’s just strengthening as I get to know them. As an ‘outsider,’ I’ve always been a fan. I think the hotels have done a wonderful job balancing a true lifestyle experience with fantastic service and style. SIXTY SoHo, as an example, relaunched last year an incredible guestroom renovation. As a competitor at my previous company’s hotels, it significantly strengthened its place in the market and we watched that closely. 

“Similarly, the opening of the Nautilus in Miami. As a competitor at the time, it was hard to ignore; that is a stunning property,” Osterhaus said of the 250-key oceanfront property designed in the 1950s by architect Morris Lapidus. He noted he had stayed at the Collins Ave. property as a “civilian,” as well as stayed at the SIXTY Beverly Hills on Wilshire Blvd., where, shortly, the property will be debuting additional guestrooms and executive meeting space.

The new president brings a varied hospitality background to SIXTY Hotels. In addition to Standard International, Osterhaus has served with Hyatt Hotels, ClubCorp and Destination Club Management. With this career move, the executive said he sees opportunity in being able “to come in and continue to strengthen the platform to broaden our revenue capabilities, to enhance our partnerships and activations as a brand. Now is the time to take advantage of the momentum the SIXTY team has started to achieve over the past three years. I just think its place in the market and our ability as a team to move forward is all coming together.”

Noting the importance of guest loyalty, Osterhaus said among his priorities is finding ways to recognize guests “and enhance the experience through a loyalty program.”

As far as expanding the brand’s footprint, the executive sees opportunities in markets where the brand exists, which could help raise awareness of SIXTY in a particular area (For example, its trio of properties in Manhattan includes its flagship in SoHo at 60 Thompson St.; a property on the Lower East Side on Allen St.; and an uptown property at 6 Columbus Circle). He cited Austin, TX; Nashville, TN; and Philadelphia as “exciting” markets. “I can see where the SIXTY brand would do really well in markets like that.”

He added, “We’re exploring conceptually things that might be successful in markets like Brooklyn.”

In terms of how the portfolio might grow, e.g., conversions, adaptive reuse, new-builds, management, etc., Osterhaus said the company is not limited to any one avenue. 

With SIXTY a player in the lifestyle space, Hotel Business asked Osterhaus if that space is getting overcrowded or if it’s just the direction the industry is trending toward. While he acknowledged he was not sure, he offered it was “still a vibrant space and I think those who will continue to be successful are differentiating themselves with service, with authenticity in the experience they’re providing. In the markets we’re in, for sure. If you can continue to focus on the fundamentals, the guest experience and sound operating properties, I still have faith companies will grow and continue to attract travelers.”

One of the current industry trends riding tandem with authenticity is the idea of community, of drawing in and interacting with the residents of the particular neighborhood in which a property is located, and pushing it beyond just the street-entry restaurant in the hotel. Toward embracing this, Osterhaus said, “It always has been where we’ve excelled. What SIXTY does well is activate relationships in the micro-community. I don’t think it’s new. I think those that have done extremely well in the space have always done that. Bunkhouse and Standard are very focused on supporting what’s right for the micro-community and I think it’s the exact same thing for SIXTY. So the focus is not a new initiative for us and we will continue to focus on that as a priority.”

The executive noted all of the Pomeranc brothers have been extremely supportive during his transition to the post. “Their focus is on growth. The hotels have performed and so right now my focus is on the fundamentals with what exists. We need to continue to enhance our ability at SIXTY to support the teams in the hotels and past that, it’s on growth—additions to the portfolio and focusing on resources that are going to allow us to do that,” he said, noting during his first week on the job he saw the “passion and service” the SIXTY teams exhibited.

“When you look at the brand, the hotel experiences and the teams, that’s what’s exciting about what exists,” said Osterhaus. “It’s been a wonderful first week.”