Undeterred by riffraff and drawn to dilapidated properties like bees to a honeycomb, Stephen Siegel, founder and CEO of The Siegel Group, and his director of business development, Michael Crandall, are building a resort empire in Las Vegas. True, this empire is being assembled in small, ornate pieces that the company has termed “boutique” chic retreats.
These chic resorts have not always been so, but have been given a healthy luster after the company’s brazen buying spree in the last two years.
Commonly known for its budget-friendly Siegel Suites residences and apartment buildings, The Siegel Group has snapped up The Resort on Mount Charleston; the Artisan, located on West Sahara Avenue a couple of miles west of the Strip; Oasis at Gold Spike on Ogden Avenue near the heart of downtown Las Vegas; and the group’s flagship, Rumor. The hotel was long known as St. Tropez (and, most recently, as the shuttered St. Tropez), across from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on Harmon Avenue.
Dark, closed, in need of extensive renovation: Rumor appealed greatly to Siegel, who paid $10.5 million in September 2009 and spent $3.5 million in a ground-up renovation project in advance of its July opening. Siegel has been taking on such makeover projects since he purchased his first The Siegel Group property in a run-down area just behind the Las Vegas Convention Center in 2004. He loved the location, as the parcel was connected to the Convention Center grounds, and he soon spruced up the dwelling, and in doing so improved the entire region. He since sold the property back to the Convention Center, for a tidy profit.
“I love the stuff people are afraid of,” he says during an interview in the conference room of his Las Vegas headquarters. “I’m not a gambler in the sense that I play casino games, but I’m a calculated gambler in my business. I bet on sure things.”
Siegel and Crandall (who swings back and forth from Vegas to the company’s offices in Los Angeles) stress the, shall we say, boutique-ity of their projects. In their view, it’s a word whose definition has been expanded and diluted in recent years in this city, where elegant hotels that stand nearly 50 stories, or atop already existing megaresorts, are frequently called “boutique.”
“I don’t think Las Vegas has seen an actual boutique hotel yet,” Crandall says. “When I think ’boutique,’ I don’t think 1,500 rooms. I think of small, less than 200 rooms where you can have a greater chance of one-to-one contact between your staff and hotel guests.”
Crandall has traveled the country extensively, staying in resorts of all shapes and sizes (including the grandest hotels in Las Vegas), and says properties like the chic Hollywood Roosevelt and Viceroy hotels in LA served as inspiration for their new resorts, “places that are welcoming and have a really cool vibe.”
Such warmth and intimacy have been Rumor hallmarks since its planning stages. The staff has been trained to offer one-on-one service and personal attention to each guest, which might seem daunting until you take into account Rumor’s relatively small 150-room capacity.
“When you consider what value is, it’s all about the guest’s personal experience,” says Siegel, whose first job was at age 15 when he worked at McDonald’s. “We want that to be the case here. We don’t want to seem big. We don’t want our customers waiting 25 minutes for valet.”
But all this isn’t to imply that the Siegel boys are thinking small for the long-term. They look at the greatest resort visionaries over the history of Las Vegas, and they see themselves representing the next phase of resort development: hip, young, lean and personal. The stories of how Steve Wynn spent hours discussing table linen are not lost on Siegel.
“Can we be that?” he asks about someday being in the same class as Wynn. “Absolutely.” And he may well get there, one boutique hotel at a time.