Proper Hospitality taps new executive to evolve, expand brands

LOS ANGELES—Known for designing, branding and operating luxury properties—both hotels and residences—Proper Hospitality, with a current portfolio of three locations, is continuing to evolve its brands and expand its geographic reach by opening a new hotel in the summer of this year and three more in 2018 (one in the summer and two in the fall), all under the Proper Hotels brand. To help progress these growth efforts, the lifestyle hospitality company tapped industry veteran Arash Azarbarzin as president and COO.

“My number-one goal is to build a world-class team, provide them with the tools they need, and to guide and mentor them,” the company’s new executive said.

Even though Proper publicly announced the appointment this month (at the beginning of May), Azarbarzin started his new role on March 1. “Everything is going great,” he told Hotel Business. “As with any new position, it’s always best to be a good listener first.” During his first few months at the hospitality company, he’s been evaluating the current team, assessing the projects and identifying strengths and potential opportunities.

He’s had a long-standing relationship with Brad Korzen, co-founder and CEO of Proper, and Kelly Wearstler, the designer of the properties (she’s married to Korzen). “I’ve known Brad and Kelly for many years and have the utmost respect for them and their ability to build brands,” Azarbarzin said. “I’m looking forward to taking it to the next level.”

Prior to joining Proper, he served as president of sbe Hotel Group—where he was also a founding member. During his time there, he led the creation and expansion of fully integrated hospitality concepts, including SLS Hotels; Hyde Hotels, Resorts & Residences; and Redbury Hotels.

“I’m really excited to launch another great hospitality brand and implement the experience I’ve gained from all of the brands I’ve helped create in the past,” he said.

As Proper’s new president and COO, Azarbarzin will oversee both of the group’s brands. He’ll also be principally responsible for launching the following ongoing projects—all of which are scheduled to open within the next 18 months or so: San Francisco Proper Hotel (a 131-room property with four F&B spaces); Downtown L.A. Proper Hotel (a 148-guestroom property with three F&B options); Santa Monica Proper Hotel (a 271-room hotel with a rooftop bar and pool); and Austin Proper Hotel & Residences (a property with 244 guestrooms and 99 branded-for-sale residences).

Responding to a question on how a company can create the ideal luxury brand, the new president and COO said: “The key is to keep your guests in mind and curate the experience around what is important to them rather than thinking only of what’s important to you. To develop a luxury brand, you really have to offer exactly what your clientele wants, which means knowing your clientele really well.”

Over the course of two years, Proper—founded by Korzen (former CEO of the Viceroy Hotel Group), Brian De Lowe and Alex Samek—has taken over the management of the Avalon Hotels in Beverly Hills and Palm Springs, CA (a move completed back in March 2015); opened the first of its eponymously named properties, Hollywood Proper Residences (a limited collection of new furnished and unfurnished luxury apartments for rent); and assembled a team to help fuel the company’s growth potential.

Proper’s portfolio consists of two brands: Proper Hotels and Avalon Hotels. Currently, the company has two Avalon Hotels—one in Beverly Hills (the Avalon Hotel Beverly Hills, which has a total of 84 guestrooms and suites) and one in Palm Springs (the Avalon Hotel and Bungalows Palm Springs, which has a total of 67 guestrooms). “They’re quieter, and tucked away in established neighborhoods, with casual services that reflect the patio lifestyle of Southern California,” he said. “With the Proper brand we’re developing in what we call more emerging and urban innovation districts.

“Right now, we’re really focused on ensuring successful launches for the properties in the pipeline—devoting the time needed to designing, entitling and putting together capital for these projects,” Azarbarzin noted about Proper Hospitality’s ongoing portfolio strategy.

While the lifestyle hospitality company’s portfolio is West Coast-heavy, it’ll expand—broadening its reach to cities across the map. “We’re actively looking for opportunities to develop in markets like New York, Miami, Nashville (TN) and Seattle,” he said. “Ultimately, we envision growing the brand in a geographic location that attracts entrepreneurs and visionaries—both domestically and internationally.”

There’s another angle to Proper’s portfolio—one less focused on geography and more geared toward targeting a particular guest. “We’ve also spent some time thinking about the resort market, or what we call the ‘non-traditional’ market, because it feels like in the resort space, there hasn’t been a cool, lifestyle-focused company that’s done it well,” Azarbarzin explained. “Down the line, we’d be interested in opening ‘outposts’ that are more outside of city centers (think Wine Country, Coastal California, the Desert).

“We would love to become a trendsetting team leading the luxury lifestyle segments within hospitality,” he said. “We plan to evolve with the times and want to have loyalists who appreciate our curated experiences, amazing design and beautiful service.” HB

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