The Business Journal salutes industry standouts for bringing welcome relief to the hospitality sector.

HIGHEST-IMPACT HOSPITALITY DEVELOPER

Ted Tanner, 62

Executive Vice President, Real Estate Development, AEG

When Ted Tanner first started working on AEG’s downtown Los Angeles Convention Center hotel, the world was a very different place. He joined the L.A.-based real estate developer and entertainment firm nearly 12 years ago – before 9/11, the real estate boom and subsequent recession.

But the longtime real estate executive is nothing if not resilient.

Aside from all that macro stuff, he’s had to deal with the loss of equity investors and hotel partners, all while shepherding a massive $985 million project through the city’s bureaucracy.

Now all that hard work has paid off for the 62-year-old executive. The JW Marriott Los Angeles is set to open Feb. 15 and Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles on April 1, drawing praise from civic and business leaders alike.

The 54-story twin hotel already has energized L.A.’s stagnant convention business – boosting the number of conventions booked for this year and beyond. And once all those conventioneers arrive, the downtown economy should get a pretty good jolt.

“It’s a career-defining project by every stretch of one’s imagination,” said Tanner, who had never before developed a hotel, but tackled large projects when he worked as vice president for Catellus Development Corp., a railroad spinoff.

Tanner is quick to share praise, citing AEG owner and reclusive billionaire Phil Anschutz, as well as Tim Leiweke, the company’s hard-driving chief executive – both of whom pushed ahead despite uncertain economic conditions.

However, the way Leiweke tells it, the development wouldn’t have gotten done without Tanner.

“He really does deserve the credit here. Unlike some of us who bounce in and out, Ted has been mucking through the mud. The fact that he has survived, not been arrested, not been put in cement like Jimmy Hoffa, are all good indications that he’s been able to do this project and protect the integrity of the organization,” Leiweke joked.

The nitty-gritty of the project involved handling entitlement, design and permitting processes. No small matter for a total of 1,001 rooms shared by the two hotels, as well as 224 Ritz-Carlton-branded condos, a ballroom and meeting facilities.

But perhaps Tanner’s biggest challenge was the loss of several prospective partners, including hotelier Lew Wolff, KB Urban and Hilton Worldwide. And even when Macfarlane Partners LLC and Marriott International Inc. were secured, Tanner had to grapple with the skyrocketing costs of concrete, steel and other building materials amid the global building boom.

“He is always looking for a way to get to ‘yes,’” said Javier Cano, general manager of the two hotels, who has worked with Tanner for nearly three years. “He’s very creative with how we try to resolve (issues) that may arise.”

Though the hotel was Tanner’s largest project, he does have experiencing completing significant developments in downtown Los Angeles. Before leaving Catellus to join AEG, Tanner worked in the 1990s on the remodel and preservation of downtown’s Union Station and the building of the headquarters office tower for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Now, unlike those projects, Tanner will have the chance to enjoy the fruits of his own labors. He and his wife, Joan, who live in Pasadena, have made a deposit on a 2.5-bedroom condo on floor 32.

“It’ll be great. I spend so much time down here anyways it’ll be nice to walk home,” he said.

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