Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

New Guy

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

New Guy

Article excerpt

Brad Jencks takes over helm of Ritz-Carlton amid planned changes

If not for the collapse of giant investment bank Lehman Brothers in 2008, Brad Jencks might still be in California.

Instead, Jencks is now the general manager of the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota, the bayfront resort that is considered a keystone for the region's hospitality industry.

Jencks takes over as the Ritz-Carlton is preparing for some important physical changes, including a possible renovation to the 17-story hotel's lobby with a new bar and restaurant.

Jencks said one of his goals is to attract more people to the resort, not just travelers but full-time residents who may not know what it has to offer.

"We want the resort to be more friendly, more inviting," he said. "We want them to use our facilities. It's a challenge."

That challenge is especially acute because key aspects of the resort -- a tony beach club on Lido Key and an upscale golf course and clubhouse near Lakewood Ranch, for instance -- have been designated the purview of resort "members" and hotel guests.

While opening them up to the general public would attract more people and revenue, it would also threaten the exclusivity that is a hallmark of the Ritz-Carlton and was a key selling point to members years earlier.

Jencks arrived here in late December -- a month after the resort marked its 10-year anniversary -- to replace Jim McManemon, who helmed the resort for more than eight years.

He didn't expect to be in Southwest Florida. Since 2006 he had worked as the opening general manager for the Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage, a 270-room hotel under construction in the Palm Springs Valley of Southern California.

There, Jencks recruited and developed the leadership team and executed the pre-opening plan. He expected to manage the property when it was finally up and running.

But then Lehman Brothers, the main source of funding for the $500 million Rancho Mirage project, filed for bankruptcy, becoming the largest casualty of the global financial crisis. The resort is still unfinished.

"It was three months from opening," Jencks recalled.

Since then, he has assisted several Ritz-Carlton properties, serving as an interim general manager at the chain's properties in Cancun, Half Moon Bay in California and Lake Las Vegas.

Jencks joined Ritz-Carlton in 2004, as general manager of the Ritz-Carlton on St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. While there, he experienced his first hurricane.

At 63, he is a well-traveled hotel and resort manager, with more than three decades of experience. Before Ritz-Carlton, he worked for Hilton Hotels, Inter-Continental Hotels and Leading Hotels of the World.

It's a career that has been anything but sedentary.

"This is my 25th move in 38 years," he said.

He relocated here with his wife, Betsy, and their dog, Fenway. Their two grown children work in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Born in Rhode Island, Jencks lived in Hawaii for many years and still considers it "home" after raising his children there. He has a bachelor's degree in hotel administration from Cornell University, and he also graduated from the International Management Executive Program, at Columbia University.

"Brad brings a wealth of knowledge of both the hospitality industry and Ritz-Carlton," said Katharine Monahan, market vice president for The Ritz Hotel Company LLC. "We are delighted to have him in Sarasota."

Since his arrival, Jencks has been settling in, joining the board of directors of Visit Sarasota County, the new name of the tourism promotion agency formerly called the Sarasota Convention & Visitors Bureau. …

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