Hotel Management has learned a shift in executive responsibilities at Meyer Jabara Hotels has elevated company veteran Justin Jabara to the post of president for the East Coast-based enterprise.
A third-generation hotelier and son of MJH CEO Richard Jabara, who launched the company with Chairman William Meyer in 1977, Jabara most recently served as VP of development/acquisitions, pursuing incremental growth for MJH, which owns, manages and third-party manages a variety of lodging product within its 27-hotel portfolio.
Currently, the elder Jabara, who previously held the title of president and CEO, has oversight of operations while Meyer tackles the financial, real estate and development functions.
“My role really comes in beneath both of them and is an added layer,” Jabara told Hotel Management. “This has been something that’s been in the works for some time now.”
And while he acknowledged the move was “no surprise,” he recognized the timing of the decision was a key factor.
“Meyer Jabara’s been around for 43 years and we looked at the future and what is going to take us to another 43 years. Things change, our industry has changed and people change. The timing was right to make this change leadershipwise,” he said, adding, “Our ‘journey’ culture is one of change. What got us here yesterday is not going to get us to where we need to be tomorrow. We very much believe that success is the enemy; it can be fantastic but it can also be the enemy in letting you rest on your laurels.”
Which is far from anything MJH has been doing lately and nothing Jabara sees as part of the company’s go-forward.
The executive noted his appointment as president was part of an overall strategy that has seen the creation of a new e-commerce division and the addition of a new regional sales team.
Busy Year Ahead
Jabara, who will continue to split his time between MJH’s two corporate locations in Danbury, Conn., and West Palm Beach, Fla., expects 2020 to “a very busy year for us” on the development side as well as in its efforts to innovate and “push the envelope” so it maintains itself as a key industry player.
Toward this, Jabara told HM the company on Jan. 22 bought out a partner’s stake in the Residence Inn by Marriott Amelia Island in Florida (he did not disclose the acquisition price), and with eight deals in the pipeline, the plan is to open three hotels by year’s end: a Renaissance (location not disclosed), a modular-build Hampton Inn on the grounds of the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, N.Y., and a Cambria with beach access in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“We do plan on going back out to the markets—[including going beyond its East Coast market concentration]—and buying core-branded, full-service hotels,” said Jabara, noting that MJH has full-service product from IHG, Hilton and Marriott International as well as select-service product from Choice Hotels International, Hilton, Hyatt Hotels Corp. and Marriott International. “We’ve been doing a lot of mixed-use properties the past couple of years. I continue to think that is a direction we will still move in, as well as looking at dual-branding and some of the newer things that have been showing up within our industry.”
He’s also looking at how the hotel portfolio may transition. “We have assets that we’ve owned since the 1980s ... as the markets change we need to change with them. The lifetime of an asset used to be much longer than it is today. Hotels become obsolete, markets that used to be primary markets we have exited or are in the process of exiting. And there’re new markets we need to come into, new assets, new brands. We are keeping the portfolio fresh,” said Jabara. “And we are continuing to invest our capital into hotels. We will always be an ownership company and one that does third-party management, working primarily with family office, private equity and development groups. That’s where we’ve found our structure, our people and our services partner very well.”
In addition, Jabara has been on the road, spending time with the company’s VPs of operations and other staff. “If you’re not at the properties and you’re not touring with people, you just don’t have a true finger on the pulse of the company,” he said.
Jabara will be keeping the beat first drummed by his grandfather, hotelier Theodore Jabara Sr., who served as inspiration and mentor to the Jabara family. One of seven siblings, the newly minted MJH president also is joined in the family enterprise by his brother (and grandfather’s namesake) Theodore Jabara III, who has oversight of the company’s Baltimore portfolio.
A graduate of Johnson & Wales University, Jabara feels well-schooled in a different way for the president’s role. “At a very young age we were exposed to the business; we grew up in it ... I worked a variety of jobs and filled a lot of positions. Richard and Bill have always felt that to learn the company you need to do everything and there’s no substitute for doing it.”
And for Justin Jabara, that “everything” now includes being president of Meyer Jabara Hotels.