Bill Kimpton – Pioneer Hotel Developer

10/07/2012 9:49 am

“Bill Kimpton pioneered the boutique hotel concept in the United States.” JANE L. LEVERE (NYT)

Bill Kimpton was the chairman and founder of the Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group, which owns over 12 boutique hotels and manages over 40 hotels and 29 restaurants in the United States.

Kimpton was one of the pioneers in finding a niche in moderately priced, intimate European-style hotels, known in the industry as boutique hotels, like the Alexis Hotel in Seattle, the Hotel Palomar in San Francisco and the Burnham Hotel in Chicago.

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, William Drennon Kimpton moved to Chicago with his mother and stepfather, Lawrence Kimpton, who became chancellor of the University of Chicago in the 1950s. Bill Kimpton a graduate of Northwestern first worked as typewriter salesman for IBM in Chicago. He then went on to become an investment banker in New York, Chicago and California, working for Lehman Brothers, Lepercq and de neuflize Securities.

He gained experience in hotel development handling the financing for the Kapaulua Bay Resort Hotel in Maui and helping Harry Helmsley raise financing to renovate the Helmsley Palace Hotel in New York.

Mr. Kimpton began his development career in 1981 buy buying the Bedford Hotel in San Francisco. His hotel development philosophy was that all travelers are insecure. “A hotel should relieve travelers of their insecurity and loneliness. It should make them feel warm and cozy.”

His strategy was to buy small, old buildings in downtown neighbourhoods and convert them into beautiful hotels. Kimpton said in interviews that he found his calling as a young boy, playing Monopoly with friends. His passion, even back then, was collecting hotels.

He created a hotel system that was truly one of a kind.” Bjorn Hanson

Kimpton was one of the first hoteliers to join forces with celebrity chefs. One of his restaurtants, Postrio at the Prescott Hotel in San Francisco, which was opened with Wolfgang Puck in 1989, and is considered to be one of the city’s best.

Kimpton’s unique development philosopher and innovative business strategies have resulted in extraordinary growth for Kimpton Hotels to a revenue of over $680 million in 2010 according to Inc.com in the space of 29 years. Sadly Bill Kimpton past away in 2001 at the age of 65 of leukaemia. Kimpton Hotels has managed to hold onto Bill’s unique development philosophy and continue to grow and provide a fantastic experience for those who choose to stay at their wonderful establishments.

He was someone who tried to swim against the current, to do something special and unique. He served as an inspiration for people like me.” Ian Schrager

For more on Bill Kimpton and Kimpton Hotels check out the Enterprise Profile from Bloomberg TV