First Hospitality Group’s executive staff combines more than 350 years of hotel management experience from first class to economy, and suburban to city center. The corporate management team is composed of industry-certified sales and marketing professionals, hoteliers, certified public accountants, registered architects, professional engineers and food & beverage experts. First Hospitality Group knows the industry and the players. Cultivating deep-rooted relationships with key leaders in the hotel, restaurant, and finance communities enable First Hospitality Group to work collaboratively to maximize the profit potential for each property. Our success is rooted the high quality of our people.
"Nothing happens until you sell something."
Stephen Schwartz CHA, CPA, MBA - Chairman
Stephen L. Schwartz is Chairman of First Hospitality Group, Inc., a leading developer, owner and operator of quality hotels in the Midwest. Mr. Schwartz founded FHG on the principles of excellence, awareness, growth, leadership and earnings. Since its incorporation in 1984 and with his first hotel opening in 1985, Mr. Schwartz has consistently grown the company to 61 properties in 10 states, aggregating in excess of $250 Million in Revenues. Over the past three decades, the company has successfully developed and financed more than $1B in hotel real estate, through the fostering of strong franchise relationships with Hilton Hotel Corporation, Marriott International, InterContinental Hotels, Global Hyatt Corporation and Carlson Hotel. In its 30th year in business, FHGs success is attributed to Mr. Schwartz’s focused vision, superior management team, committed values and innovative leadership. It is through his leadership that FHG has reached its superior level of performance and exceptional returns, while maintaining its entrepreneurial and service-oriented culture.
"Our team members are the backbone of our success."
Robert Habeeb CHA, President and CEO
Mr. Habeeb is a seasoned professional with over 25 years of high profile, multiunit experience in hotel, resort and food and beverage management. Prior to joining FHG in 1997 he was the COO of the U. S. resort subsidiary of London’s Rank Group, PLC (owners of the Hard Rock Café’s) where he was responsible for a multifaceted portfolio of hotel, restaurant and leisure businesses. Over his career, he has successfully operated hospitality businesses in virtually every aspect of the industry including luxury, select service, resort hotels, restaurants and golf and ski operations in every setting imaginable.
"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."
Wendy Stevens Executive Vice PresidentTeam Member Since: 2001
Wendy Stevens joined First Hospitality Group in 2001. In her role as Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, she is directly responsible for generating revenue for all of FHG’s properties. Ms. Stevens’ professional roots are in Operations, having worked for many years as a hotel General Manager. Her background provides her with a valuable and enlightened perspective as she assists in the development of hotel revenue budgets and tactical business plans and works closely with her regional directors to ensure that established performance goals for each hotel are met and exceeded.
"I got into this business because it was a fun business, and I have been having fun for 34 years."
Paul Hitselberger Executive Vice President of Operations
Paul Hitselberger is an industry veteran with over 34 years of hospitality experience. After graduating from the University of Delaware with a major in political science, he made his start as a sous chef in Atlantic City and quickly made a name for himself as a culinary award winner. From 1984 through 1996, Paul worked with Tollman Hundley Hotels starting as a Food & Beverage manager and gradually climbing his way up the ladder. At 25, he was the youngest GM with his company and by 1996, he had been promoted to Vice President of Operations.
He went on to work with Lodgian, Inc., overseeing up to 75 properties as Vice President of Hotel Operations by the time he moved on in 2007. Until recently, Paul served at Vice President of Operations for the Eastern Region at TPG Hospitality with a portfolio consisting of multiple brands including Westin, Sheraton, Marriott, and Hilton. In his free time, he loves to travel, attend his kids athletic events, and spend time with his lovely wife of 29 years.
"Strive for excellence and settle for nothing less."
Daniel Smith CHA, Senior Vice President of Asset Management
Mr. Smith has over 25 years of Hospitality experience holding property leadership positions with many hotels. He has served as General Manager, Regional Director of Operations, and Managing Director prior to moving into FHG’s home office. He has worked with Hilton, Marriott and Intercontinental Hotel Group brands and served as Managing Director of Indian Lakes Resort in Bloomingdale, Illinois. Mr. Smith became a General Manager at age 22, becoming one of the youngest GM’s in Holiday Inn history at the time. He was awarded “Certified Hotel Administrator” in 1986. Mr. Smith, in his various leadership positions within FHG and along with his property teams, has won the Hotel of the Year award, Sales General Manager of the year, and is a three time recipient of FHG’s Inner Circle award.
"Chaos breeds opportunity!"
Roger Baker Chief Financial Office & Chief Investment OfficerTeam Member Since: 2008
Roger Baker joined First Hospitality Group’s executive team in 2008. As Chief Financial Officer, his responsibilities are focused on the development, finance, accounting and administrative aspects of the Company.
Mr. Baker is a proven executive and leader with over 20 years of experience in the real estate industry. He most recently held the position of Vice President – Financial Operations for Trizec Properties Inc., where he was responsible for the day to day operations of the Property Accounting, Corporate Accounting, Portfolio Analysis, Treasury and Business Applications departments. Pursuant to his guidance of these functions, Mr. Baker served as a key member of Trizec’s executive team responsible for strategically repositioning Trizec within the REIT Industry as well as to prepare the company for its acquisition by Brookfield Properties Corporation and Blackstone Real Estate Partners. In addition, Mr. Baker has been responsible for Tax, Investor Relations, Financial Reporting and Acquisition/Disposition activities at other various real estate firms.
"Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way!"
James Stephenson VP of Design & Construction
Mr. Stephenson has extensive experience in construction, engineering, and facilities operations and maintenance. Upon retiring as a senior officer in the U.S. Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps, he has been responsible for the development planning, budgeting, design, contracting, and construction of numerous hotels and other commercial projects over a wide sector of the country.
The hotel projects he has successfully completed include numerous brands under the Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt flags; these developments have included “ground-up” construction, conversions, and innovative historic adaptation projects. He further provides technical support to the ongoing operations and maintenance of First Hospitality Group’s portfolio of hotels.
Mr. Stephenson holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Northwestern University, and a Master of Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. He is a licensed, professional engineer.
"Great things never came from comfort zones"
Kelly Mascari Sr. Vice President Sales & Marketing
Kelly Mascari is a key player on our team with a depth of knowledge not only in the field, but with First Hospitality Group as well. Her career began with making cold calls for an outside catering company, a role in which she learned everything from selling to cooking and event planning. Following her early years, Kelly gained experience in a variety of hotel roles including Director of Sales and General Manager. Showing a great deal of potential and a knack for driving a successful process, she was promoted to Vice President of Sales & Marketing for the Brichton Group in 2002.
In 2008, Kelly joined team FHG as Regional Director of Operations overseeing a portfolio of 21 hotels in the greater Midwest area until she was promoted to Regional Vice President of Operations in 2014. As Regional VP, she had the opportunity to mentor a Regional Director of Operations while carrying her own portfolio. Since then she has acted both as SVP of Operations at Pillar Hotels & Resorts and VP of Operations at Crestline Hotels & Resorts, before coming back "home" to take the place of Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing with First Hospitality Group once again. As someone who specializes in building culture, it is no surprise that Kelly is also passionate about developing the youth of today in her free time. In her role as a cheer-leading manager, she advocates on the importance of teamwork and the power of integrating various personalities into harmonious success. When she's not coaching the next generation of successful leaders, she can be found spending time with her daughter, Kylie, or burning a few calories at the gym. Her relentless energy and drive are surpassed only by passion for the success of her team.
"Every day and in every way, I try to get better."
Mike Reda Vice President and Controller
As Vice President/Controller, Mike Reda oversees all operational accounting for First Hospitality Group, Inc. Mr. Reda is a seasoned industry professional with more than 25 years of real estate experience, including seven years with VMS Realty Partners, prior to joining FHG in 1994. During his tenure at FHG he has been continually promoted within the organization, previously serving as an assistant controller and controller. He was inducted into the company’s hall of fame in 2009, yet when asked about his greatest accomplishment, he will say it is the successful accounting team he has built with many of the members being with the company for more than ten years.
Mr. Reda’s long history with FHG provides him with keen insight that helps him reflect on the organization’s history, while continually looking for new ways to add value to clients in the future. Mr. Reda is a certified public accountant and earned a bachelors degree from Peoria, Ill.-based Bradley University.
"The quality of your life is determined by the conversations you are willing or unwilling to have."
Mary Pat Knight Senior Vice President of People ServicesTeam Member Since: 2011
Mary Pat Knight joined First Hospitality Group in 2011. As Vice President of People Services, she is responsible for the oversight of all people initiatives, from HR general efforts to a specialized leadership program designed to create powerful and accountable leaders at FHG.
Prior to joining First Hospitality Group, Mary Pat was the Chief Operating Officer for Food For Thought Enterprises, Inc., an executive with the National Restaurant Association’s Educational Foundation and Vice President of People Development and Marketing for Flat Top Grill. She also directed the marketing at a time of quantum growth for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. As a business owner, Mary Pat provided corporate and executive consultation and mentoring in the areas of strategic planning, human resources, organizational effectiveness, leadership/management development, integrated marketing and project supervision.
"People may hear your words, but feel your attitude."
Jay Rosenthal Director of Development
Jay Rosenthal serves as Director of Development for First Hospitality Group and joined the company in 2014. As Director or Development, Jay is responsible for the growth of FHG’s portfolio through the acquisition of properties and management contracts. He is responsible for managing the development process along the way by working closely with various stakeholders.
Jay got his start over 35 years ago while attending the University of Nevada, Las Vegas studying Hotel Administration and working with such hotel groups as Hilton, Hyatt, Doubletree, Starwood and the Borgata Casino. His extensive background in operations where he has worked with select service, full service, resort and gaming hotels provides him the perfect balance of understanding the importance of executing against planned objectives and building of relationships through the development process in his current role. His upbeat leadership style supports our unique culture and helps deliver results to our guests, associates and stakeholders.
Jay had recently served as the 2015 Chairman of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association as well as serving on the Board of Trustees for the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Chicago. Previously having served on the boards of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, Chicago Convention & Visitors Bureau (now Choose Chicago) and the Magnificent Mile Association.
"Eating is a necessity, but cooking is an art."
Justin Harkey Director of Food & Beverage
Justin Harkey serves as Director of Food & Beverage for First Hospitality Group, joining FHG in the spring of 2015. Within his role, he oversees execution of all food and beverage operations and strategies, focusing on growth and on consistency with trends.
Mr. Harkey has 15 years of operations experience in the hospitality industry covering resorts, multi-unit properties, convention centers, and restaurant groups. With his experience in both running hotels and food and beverage operations, he understands both sides of the operations equation needed to achieve a high level of success. His leadership always focuses on executing and improving both the tangible and intangible offerings of food and beverage programs, product and service. Focusing FHG’s buying power on commodity cost controls and supply chain management, Mr. Harkey leverages activities in those areas that insure above industry returns to FHG’s portfolio properties
Prior to working with FHG, Mr. Harkey held an Director of Operations and Marketing position with The Francesca’s Restaurant Group overseeing 2,700 associates on a national footprint and Director of Restaurants with Interstate Hotels and Resorts, focused on Full Service properties. Mr. Harkey holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Management and Administration from Western Governors University.