Marriott's London Edition - the odd couple in perfect harmony

George Sell By George Sell
Uploaded 16 September 2013

Now he has teamed up with Marriott to launch the Edition lifestyle hotel brand, starting in London.

The London Edition, which opened last week, is a dramatic and impressive conversion of the former Berners Hotel, just off Oxford Street. Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson and Ian Schrager were there for the opening, and spoke candidly about their partnership and the roll-out of the Edition brand.

Sitting at the bar in the wood-panelled Punch Room, Schrager was in typically rumbus form as he discussed the Edition brand and his relationship with Marriott: "Working with Marriott is a great opportunity - 15 years ago I used to describe myself as 'the anti-Marriott' - now you could describe us as 'the odd couple'. But I think this is the best hotel I've worked on to date, and by choosing to work with me Marriott is showing what a great company it is. Because it owns the property, I didn't have to get involved in committee decisions and could focus on what is important. 15 to 20 years ago in London I had this sector of the market all to myself. Now there are lots of other options and that invigorates me - I want to keep hold of the title!

Marriott CEO Aren Sorenson outlined Marriott's 'long game' policy when it came to the lifestyle hotel concept. "We have watched Ian since the mid-1980s New York days, and we have also watched this space in the market and wondered if it was relevant for a company of our size. It took us 15 years to make the decision to move in to this sector, and we didn't have the expertise to go it alone, so who better to team up with than Ian? Ian first suggested a partnership to Bill Marriott at the opening of the Gramercy Park Hotel, and within a month we were trying to work out how we could best work together."

Sorenson and Schrager were both clearly very pleased with the first Edition property. Sorenson said: "This hotel is spectacular, I'm very excited about it - it looks great in the day but it positively glows at night. Looking at the market we saw exciting hotels with a lively night scene but they often involved a tradeoff - perhaps a good night's sleep or a warm welcome. With this hotel, the customer can have it all."

Now the London property is up and running, the Edition brand will expand fairly rapidly. Sorenson revealed that the first 10 or 12 deals Marriott put together for Edition became victims of the economy, but the London hotel will be followed by properties in Miami (the former Seville Hotel, due to open in autumn 2014) and New York (the clock tower of the MetLife building, schedule for a winter 2014/5 opening).

Unusually for Marriott, the company owns all of the first three properties but is seeking to sell them as soon as they open in keeping with its business model - the company owns just 10 of the 3,800 properties it manages.

Sorenson explained: "We have another seven to 10 Editions in the pipeline, including three in China and properties in India, Thailand and the Middle East. LA and Paris are also key future destinations and we are in discussions over sites in both cities. Asia, as a region is very important to us also. Tokyo, Hong Kong and Bangkok are in our plans, and Shanghai is top of our wish list in China."

The Edition hotels, according to Schrager, will reflect the ethos and atmosphere of their host cities, and could be either conversion or new-build properties. "If Marriott had a standard design rule book for Edition they wouldn't need to work with me," he said. In the London hotel, he indicated a stuffed duck in a class dome as an example - "you'd only get that in Britain!"

Schrager left no doubt that he intends to be making waves in the hotel sector for a long time to come, stating: "We're in the product distinction business, and with Edition we are bringing something different to the market. I haven't seen anybody else doing anything really new in the market, which is why I like to keep doing this and pulling rabbits out of hats!"

edition-hotels.marriott.com/london

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