Lionel Benjamin
Lionel Benjamin
CEO
Gullwing Hospitality
Bio

Lionel is a hotelier / entrepreneur and has been fully focused in the industry for over twenty five years. Lionel attended the renowned Ealing School of Hotel Keeping, now The University of West London, graduating in 1987 Lionel joined Hilton Worldwide’s Management training scheme, including stints at Brussels Hilton and Jerusalem Hilton.
Lionel’s early career was focused on the operational management side of the industry, holding roles at The Athenaeum
Hotel and The Langham Hilton before becoming the Deputy General Manager of the Grand Hyatt Jerusalem.
On the back of his managerial role at the Hyatt, Lionel was recruited to The Savoy Hotel following Blackstone’s acquisition. Lionel was rapidly promoted to Hotel Manager overseeing the entire hotel operations and the introduction of world renowned chefs Gordon Ramsey and Marcus Wareing. Lionel played a lead role in the team who oversaw the 60 bedroom extension of the hotel, delivering a x13 value multiple vs. cost. As a result of this success Lionel worked closely with Blackstone Senior Leadership on the sale of The Savoy, creating the IM, the data room, and finally presenting The Savoy to a select number of buyers.
Lionel re-joined Hilton in April 2004, at The Hilton London Metropole overseeing operations of this 1054 bedroom hotel and conference center and to prepare the hotel for sale. In tandem Lionel competed for and won a scholarship to Cornell University in 2004 to attend the Hotel Asset Management, Investment Analysis and General Managers Program. Post the course, Lionel focused on Capital Investment projects in order to position the hotel for the sale where he supported preparation of the IM, the data room and presenting the hotel to buyers. Lionel’s work on this culminated in 2006 when he was solely responsible for introducing the ultimate purchaser. At the time this was Hilton Worldwide’s largest single asset sale, which included Hilton Birmingham Metropole.
Post-acquisition in 2006 Lionel was awarded as an Honorary Professor of The University of West London and permanently transferred into Hilton’s Real Estate team where he was jointly appointed to sell ten Hilton assets across six countries. Lionel’s USP as a seasoned hotel operator gave the team an edge as he was quickly able to understand the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities across each property. Lionel led the go to market, showcasing the portfolio to investors with the aim of selling the ten hotels as a portfolio. The team subsequently achieved a sale to MSREF in 2008 at a price which was widely acknowledged at the very top of the market.

Lionel continued his work with Hilton in 2008 where he worked alongside Hilton’s European Development team and potential owners and investors as they sought to export the Doubletree, Garden Inn and Hampton brands. This work culminated in the rebranding and opening outside of the USA of the first converted Doubletree by Hilton, the first new build Hampton and the first new build Hilton Garden Inn in the UK.
In 2010 Lionel joined The Ability Group as Head of Hotel and Leisure Division focused on growing a hotel portfolio and consolidating the portfolio performance. The group’s portfolio grew through development of three new hotels from ground up and acquisition of existing hotels which were rebranded under the Hilton umbrella. The portfolio’s overall EBITDA grew
significantly, value was added through capital investment.
In November 2013 Lionel joined Topland at board level to develop a £1bn hotel portfolio, as well as advising on lending and funding opportunities to the hospitality sector. Lionel’s advantage / expertise of holding senior positions in both the operational and property side of the hotel sector, positioned him to identify value add opportunities which would ultimately increase value of hotels Topland may acquire . In 2014 Lionel acquired the Menzies and Hallmark Hotels portfolios adding the Feathers Hotels portfolio in January 2015.
In 2015 Lionel led the financing of the portfolio and developed the strategy which brought the 28 hotel portfolio together under the brand of Hallmark, and extended Hallmark Inns . Over five years ownership Lionel consolidated the management team, implemented centralised operations and identified opportunities to further develop the size of the portfolio. As part of his work he led the obtention of planning consents, applied for residential consent on excess land and sold the land on for developments, ideating and implementing robust strategies to grow revenues and profits. In January 2019 the Hallmark portfolio was sold to a purchaser brought in by Lionel who ultimately acquired the hotel assets, the
management structure and the brand. The sale was considered a textbook Topland deal, right price acquisition, profit growth and sale. The business achieved high teen IRR’s during ownership and adding capital value on the purchase price.
In January 2020 Lionel formed a consultancy business and was retained as Deputy Chairman for CLC World Resorts and Hotels. Covid 19 impacted the role and today Lionel is consulting for Topland and other clients requiring support across a broad spectrum of the Hospitality sector.

In 2020 Lionel co-founded  AGO Hotels Together with Viv Watts in partnership with Accor, who are financially backing the initiative to support Travelodge owners and landlords with a robust alternative.

 

Speaking at The AHC Reimagined

Ending the Standoff: Managing the Lender-Owner-Tenant Relationship

Discussing the relations between lender, owner and tenant, put under strain by the COVID crisis.