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Our Executive Team

  • Stephen L. 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.

    Mr. Schwartz holds an MBA in Finance, Accounting and International Business from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management, a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering from Northwestern and is a Certified Public Accountant. In addition to his operating responsibilities, Mr. Schwartz has been active on several boards including the Promus Acceptance Corp; and both Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt Franchise Advisory Committees.

    Mr. Schwartz is a known philanthropist and strongly believes in giving back to the communities his businesses serves. His charitable activities include: Board of Jewish Education (member since 1990); Boards of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra (member since 2009); and the Weizmann Institute of Science (member since 2011).   In 2007, he was awarded the Chairman’s Hospitality Award from the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association and inducted into the Chicago Area Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame.

  • Robert J. Habeeb, CHA, President and CEO

    Mr. Habeeb’s passionate leadership philosophy is founded on the principle that First Hospitality Group has 3 key constituencies, each of whom are equally critical to our overall success: Our guests, our associates and our investors. Further, FHG has an identical mission toward each group, which is to market to them and garner their loyalty. This focus is emphasized by the successful systems that Mr. Habeeb has created for gathering feedback, providing meaningful incentives and building a strong and effective culture. His approach has recently earned him the Industry Leader of the Year by the School of Hospitality Business Alumni Association at Michigan State University, as well as being inducted into the Alumni Association Hall of Fame at the School of Hospitality Business Alumni Association’s Annual Celebration of Leadership. In the past few years, he has also received Wabash & Lake’s Corporate Evangelist Award, The Illinois Hotel Association’s Hotelier of the Year award, and Global Hotelier of the year for 2007.

    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.

    In addition to his duties at FHG, Mr. Habeeb serves as a member of the adjunct faculty of Chicago’s Roosevelt University, where he teaches at a graduate level in the Manfred Steinfeld School of Hospitality Management. He has served on numerous industry boards and brand advisory councils, and was previously Chairman of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association.

  • David Misenhimer, Executive Vice President, Operations

    David Misenhimer serves as Executive Vice President of Operations for First Hospitality Group, a position he has held since 1999. Within his role he develops and implements critical hotel operating strategies and oversees all capital, technical, sales and quality‐related functions. Mr. Misenhimer drives initiatives to enhance the profitability of all of FHG’s properties. He is directly responsible for nearly 3,000 associates and for operating budgets in excess of $175 million.

    Mr. Misenhimer’s management philosophy is summed up by his unique twists to two common business principles: First, work hard AND work smart, and second, think AND act outside the box. His leadership style is rooted in entrepreneurialism and empowerment and has contributed greatly to FHG’s recognition throughout the industry as an organization of innovators, not imitators. Under Mr. Misenhimer’s direction, FHG hotels have been the recipients of prestigious awards from Marriott, Hilton and other internationally recognized brands.

    An alumnus of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Mr. Misenhimer brings with him over 20 years of experience in successful multi‐unit hotel operations. He began his career with Best Inns of America, and held regional operations positions with RFS, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Promus Corporation and Vista Host, Inc. of Houston, TX prior to joining FHG.

  • Wendy Stevens, Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing

    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.

    Ms. Stevens demonstrates a hands‐on, involved approach to sales leadership. She aligns her activities and those of her sales team members to the idea that “nothing happens until you sell something”. She also incorporates this notion into developing and orchestrating corporate strategies for client relations, market analysis and segmentation, prospect identification, proposal delivery, contract negotiation, yield and rate structure and campaign design and execution. Ms. Stevens tracks, analyzes and reports competitive trends for each market, and has been phenomenally successful in growing e‐commerce sales for FHG through her strong understanding of internet intermediaries and global distribution systems.

    Prior to joining FHG, Ms. Stevens was hired by the Hyatt Corporation to lead the sales team of the first Hawthorn Suites Hotel, their prototype all‐suites property. She has also held Corporate and Regional Director of Sales and Marketing positions for national companies. Ms. Stevens is an active member of numerous industry organizations and serves as an enthusiastic community ambassador by regularly representing FHG hotels at local civic and charitable functions.

  • Daniel R. Smith, CHA, Senior Vice President, Management Services

    Dan Smith serves as Senior Vice President of Management Services at First Hospitality Group and acts as a direct liaison between the ownership groups of our managed properties, FHG’s executive team, and our property management, focusing on Asset Management and Performance.

    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.

    Mr. Smith serves on the Executive Committee of the Greater Woodfield Convention & Visitors Bureau as Chairperson of Sales, as a board member of the DuPage County Convention & Visitors Bureau and on the Business Promotions and Cultural Development Committee for the Village of Bloomingdale, Illinois. He also is involved in fundraising efforts for Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois.

  • Roger L. Baker, Chief Financial Officer

    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.

    Mr. Baker holds a Bachelor of Business in Finance and Accounting from Western Illinois University. He is also an active member of NAREC and active in several local civic organizations.

  • 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.

  • Mike Reda, Vice President/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.
  • Mary Pat Knight, Vice President People Services

    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.

    Her visionary mission is to inspire business transformation and develop solid leadership, remembering that when you are inspired in the workplace, you inspire the world.

  • Jay Rosenthal, Director of Development

    Jay Rosenthal has more than 35 years of experience in operating and managing hotels and casinos in various upscale and luxury markets throughout the United States. Jay’s career got his start while attending the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Hotel Administration and working from the ground up at the Flamingo Hilton, Many years later Jay re-entered the casino environment as Vice President of Hospitality at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City leading a team of over 1,500 Associates in the 2,000 room hotel.  In addition to his casino hotel experience Jay’s career spanned such branded hotels as Hilton, Hyatt, Doubletree, Westin and W Hotels working coast to coast, before joining First Hospitality Group as its Director of Development.

    In between his Starwood tours of duty, Jay served at the Harp Group, a Chicago based hotel development and acquisition firm where he was responsible for working with their hotel partners, asset management on the portfolio of hotels and restaurant group, due diligence on acquisitions as well as working with their affiliated management company. Having enjoyed his development role from his experience at Harp, he was delighted to once again immerse himself into his current role at FHG where he is responsible for the acquisition of hotels as well as third party management contracts.

    Jay currently serves on the boards of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association as its’ 2015 Chairman of the Board in addition to serving as a Board of Trustees for the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Chicago. In addition, Jay has served on the boards of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, Chicago Convention & Visitors Bureau (now Choose Chicago), Michigan Avenue Association, Atlantic City Hotel & Lodging Association and the San Francisco Hotel Council. 

Executive Leadership of First Hospitality Group