What kind of mind is needed to create and manage a multi-billion dollar real estate, hotel, and debt empire like Starwood Capital Group? A creative one.
Founder, chairman, and CEO Barry Sternlicht is not only a defining member of the international business community, but also an inspired artistic force, deliberately incorporating a visual vocabulary in each corporate endeavor.
Richard LeFrak, the chairman and CEO of LeFrak, which has conducted several deals with Starwood, described Sternlicht’s unique creative focus: “we would go into the building, and I wanted to talk about the elevators—he wanted to talk about the palm trees. But he’s a very visual person. That’s what jumps out at him.”
Dissecting complex commercial agreements through creative means and designs puts Sternlicht in a league of his own. This methodology is a driving force in the risks that Starwood is known for taking, carefully navigating a volatile economic landscape. In a discussion with Rusty Gregory, the chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Mammoth Resorts, during an acquisition meeting over the ski resort, Sternlicht pulled out a pad and began to draw hotel designs. “He put hotels on the base [of the mountain] with notations- the number of hotel rooms. Then there were the associated amenities, the spa, the restaurant,” said Gregory. “I’ve been in business a long time—I’ve never seen anyone express it like this. In a very organic way. More like a designer would do it.”
Indeed, in each facet of business, Sternlicht acts as a designer, whether that means drawing ideas on paper to use in negotiations or critiquing landscaping designs for his newest hotel. Additionally, his artistic business acumen reaches beyond real estate. As a sitting member of Americans for the Arts’ Business Committee for the Arts Executive Board, he is critical to managing key initiatives in promoting strategic partnerships between the arts and the private sector community.
Sternlicht embraces this responsibility wholeheartedly: “I’m an artist by nature—I love to paint and draw and sculpt. Last count, I think I was one of two businessmen inducted into the Interior Design Hall of Fame. I’ve won a lot of awards, but that one’s my favorite one.”
Barry Sternlicht is the engine behind the capital giant Starwood and his vehicle of choice in business is creativity.
Photo: Barry Sternlicht inside of his Greenwich, CT. Photo by Yvonne Albinowski for Commercial Observer.