White Lodging founder Bruce White dies at 70

Bruce White, founder and chairman of White Lodging, has died at the age of 70 after a nearly year-long battle with cancer.

White founded White Lodging in 1985 with a single hotel in Northwest Indiana, ultimately growing the business into one of the industry’s largest privately held development, ownership and management companies. The company’s portfolio now has approximately 60 hotels with 14,600 rooms, more than 50 restaurants, 10 rooftops bars and a collection of ranches. White developed, owned and managed more than 225 new hotels over the past 35 years on behalf of White Lodging and with the support of other partners. The company is still headquartered in Northwest Indiana.

“Bruce was a visionary, a leader, and a hospitality icon like no other,” White Lodging CEO Jean-Luc Barone said in a statement. “I have learned more from Bruce about hard work, leadership and family than any other person in my life. And while he maintained a low public profile and was humble in his impact on the industry, there’s no question that Bruce White helped transform the modern hospitality industry by having a long-term vision, challenging existing norms, and executing at the highest levels—all from a small town in Northwest Indiana.”

“From the first time I met him when I was a line cook in the 1980s and throughout the 20+ years I spent by his side helping White Lodging develop hundreds of hotels across the country, Bruce's thirst and ability to be a life-long learner and leader was unmatched,” said Deno Yiankes, senior advisor and board member at White Lodging.

“Bruce White was a valued long-term partner who had an indelible influence in the hospitality industry,” said Anthony Capuano, CEO of Marriott International. “One of our most successful franchisees, Bruce opened our first Fairfield Inn & Suites, and led White Lodging’s portfolio expansion to include over 200 hotels with us, including spectacular JW Marriott hotels that are brand builders and leaders in their markets. What comes to mind when I think about Bruce is his strong business acumen, candid perspectives, and relentless transparency. These qualities, combined with his entrepreneurial spirit, made Bruce a great partner and bolstered his success in consistently breaking new ground. I am forever grateful for Bruce’s partnership and friendship. I send my deepest sympathies to Beth, Corinne, Conner and Patrick (Otis) and all of those whose lives have been touched by Bruce.”

Building Relationships

White took over several small Carlton Lodges in Indiana nearly 40 years ago, and soon caught the attention of J.W. “Bill” Marriott Jr, now chairman emeritus of Marriott International. “Marriott’s relationship with Bruce White and White Lodging has been going strong for decades and that’s a testament to our shared values and our belief that people are at the heart of this business,” Marriott said. “Bruce embodied that value. It isn’t often in business that you have the opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with a partner for decades—it has been our distinct privilege to do just that with Bruce and the team at White Lodging.”

White built and opened the first Fairfield Inn franchise (in Merrillville, Ind.) in 1990, followed by the first franchised Marriott headquarter convention hotel (Marriott Indianapolis) in 2001, the first dual-branded property (Courtyard and Residence Inn Austin Downtown in Texas) in 2006, and the largest JW Marriott in the world (JW Marriott Indianapolis) in 2011. For many years, White was Marriott’s largest independent franchisee, and in 2021, Purdue University—White’s alma mater—renamed its hospitality school the White Lodging – J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr. School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

“Bruce was a legend in hospitality, and it was my great fortune to get to know him very early in my career at Marriott,” said Liam Brown, group president of United States and Canada for Marriott International. “He freely imparted his knowledge and learning, much to my benefit over a 30+ year career journey and friendship. I have a deep appreciation for his passion, his candor, and a relentless pursuit of excellence. He built and has left a remarkable legacy. He understood that at the end of the day, we are hoteliers, providing great experiences with great hotels and the best people. Fearless, passionate, and larger than life, Bruce was a hotelier through and through and very astute leader. I am fortunate to have worked with and learned from Bruce for so many years and blessed to call him a friend.”

Bruce White accelerated White Lodging’s growth in 2006 when he sold 100 suburban hotels. The proceeds were reinvested in new hotel developments, and at one time the company was developing and opening more than ten hotels every year. In 2018, White Lodging sold 82 hotel management contracts and began a strategic shift to a concentrated urban portfolio. In 2022, Bruce White sold the company’s remaining suburban hotels and management contracts to refocus all efforts on urban and experiential hotels.

“In all its history, Indiana has produced few citizens the equal of Bruce White,” said Mitch Daniels, Purdue University president emeritus and former Indiana governor. “In a spectacular business career, his imagination and boldness created opportunities and wealth for thousands of others. He invested enormously of his energy and personal resources in trying to build the prosperity and quality of life of his beloved Northwest Indiana. And, of course, as trustee, donor, and advocate, he was a central figure in building the Purdue University of today. We cannot replace him; we will remember him with the deepest gratitude always.”

Next Steps

White Lodging will remain a private, family-owned business, with an executive team led by Barone. The White family will remain involved as board members and in hospitality operations. The company maintains a long-term development pipeline in addition to the projects already underway in San Antonio, Austin and Nashville that are expected to add up to 2,300 rooms to the company’s portfolio.