Paul Cash was working his way toward a career in the hotel industry his entire life. He just didn’t know it. From service jobs and the debate team to international travel and law, he perfectly positioned himself for his roles as general counsel, chief compliance officer and corporate secretary at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts.
Cash grew up in Pekin, Ill., a small town in the heart of the state, and his first jobs in junior high and high school taught him the importance of service and hard work.
“The first was a paper route delivering newspapers at the crack of dawn in Pekin, which was an adventure during our snowy winters, but taught me the importance of listening to the customer—some wanted their paper in the driveway, some inside the front door and some wanted me to ring the doorbell as their wake-up call!” he said. “Then I matured to detasseling corn over the summers in 90+ degree weather and flipping burgers at Wendy’s—great and challenging service jobs.”
During college at Illinois State University, he worked as a resident assistant, then during law school at the University of Illinois he taught speech communications to undergraduate students. A career in law was never in question.
“I was on the debate team in high school and college (and spent most of my weekends at debate tournaments around the country), and we all had a shared dream of going to law school and litigating in court one day,” he said. “I remember reading ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and thinking that I wanted to be Atticus Finch.”
His career as a lawyer officially began in Germany.
“German was my second undergraduate major (international business was the first), which took me to interning with a German law firm during law school and to my first full-time job as an attorney/translator at Pünder, Volhard, Weber & Axster in Frankfurt am Main,” he said. “I met my Colombian-American wife in Germany (she was working for an investment bank), and she led us both back to her New York roots where I worked for Walter, Conston, Alexander & Green, a midsize N.Y. firm, specializing in the representation of German companies. We would later merge with Alston + Bird, a large Atlanta-based firm, where I would make partner in the M&A and international practice groups.”
But Cash felt the desire to go in-house and “own” the transactions he worked on, which led him in 2005 to RCI, a timeshare exchange business owned at the time by Cendant.
“Our division—which also included the then-largest provider of professionally managed vacation rentals in the world—would later spin off as part of Wyndham Worldwide in 2006. I was appointed general counsel of Wyndham Destination Network in 2010. I moved over as general counsel of the Wyndham Hotel Group in 2017, before our spinoff as a separate public company (Wyndham Hotels & Resorts) in 2018, where I am incredibly lucky and privileged to lead an amazing team of over 50 legal and compliance professionals in seven countries.”
Cash stumbled upon the RCI opportunity, his start in hospitality, by chance.
“One of the many great things about working at Wyndham Worldwide was that it gave me exposure to all of its hospitality businesses,” he said. “I was always curious about the hotel side and when the opportunity to work there presented itself, I jumped on it.”
As the holder of three corporate titles, each day is long but rewarding, according to Cash.
“While my schedule varies a bit, I’m generally an early riser—up at 4:30 a.m., grab a coffee and check any emails that came in from the international offices overnight and then head to the office where I work out in our on-site gym before hitting my office,” he said. “I try to use the commute to talk to our lawyers in Asia or Europe before it gets too late for them.
“Every day presents a unique set of challenges in my capacity as general counsel responsible for oversight of our legal affairs and government relations, as chief compliance officer focused on ensuring that our compliance and privacy programs are effective and as corporate secretary providing advice on board governance and responsibilities.”
In addition, Cash considers himself lucky to serve on the company’s executive committee and work for a CEO who expects him to provide strategic and commercial advice as well as embraces his business side.
His goal every day is to make it home for dinner and chat with the family—his wife, his 23-year-old son and his 18-year-old daughter—about their days.
While Cash’s diverse skill set lends itself to a variety of industries, Wyndham’s people and culture are what keep him firmly entrenched in hospitality.
“I am privileged to work with really amazing people, the work is intellectually challenging, no two days are alike, the industry is fun and I get to see the world and meet people from all walks of life. I consider myself really lucky to work for a company that was just named to Newsweek’s list of most responsible companies for our environmental and social responsibility practices,” he said. “Some of my favorite days of the year are participating in our company’s wish days where every employee is given time to give back to the communities where we live and work.
“I am extremely passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion and am proud to serve as an executive sponsor and ally to our Spectrum Affinity Business Group for the African-American and Black community.”
After 16 years in the hotel industry, Cash doesn’t expect to leave for another one—but that doesn’t mean there won’t be changes coming at some point.
“When I retire one day, it will likely be to work for an autism-related charity or maybe work as a kindergarten teacher,” he said. “I would love either of those.”