New York hotelier has no plans to check out just yet
“It’s a lovely property but it doesn’t fit the profile of the Fitzpatrick hotels,” he says.
Why does he want to buy in Ireland?
“It would be advantageous for us to have a hotel in Dublin because of the amount of business I’m generating from New York.
“I’m selling rooms to Dublin every week. It’s got to be in a city because I’ve got to be able to drive business. It’s corporate business and top leisure business. Another one would be Belfast. I’m getting a lot of business from Northern Ireland.”
He refers business to his sister Eithne, who runs the Fitzpatrick hotel in Killiney, where it all started for the family in 1970.
“She’s doing well. How I know is that I can’t get a room there half the time.”
Family and the thorny issue of succession dominated much of Fitzpatrick’s earlier life and career.
There were five children, of which John, Eithne and Paul – who runs the Morgan and Beacon hotels in Dublin – worked in the hotels.
Their father, Paddy Fitzpatrick, spent a lot of time working on a mechanism to hand over control of the family hotels to the children in a way that would avoid squabbles when he passed away.
In the end, John got the bulk of the shares in the hotels in New York and Chicago with conditions set down for buying out his siblings over time.
In 2006, he got a “fantastic offer” for Chicago and decided to sell the property and exercise his rights to buy out the New York hotels.
“I bought them out and it made me independent,” he says. “It also brought us closer together as a family. I can now go to my sister’s house without talking about the business or anyone wondering if there’s an agenda. I’m much closer to my family now and it’s great.”
His father had three golden rules to doing business, which Fitzpatrick says have guided him over the years.
The first was always be upfront with the banks. “If you see something coming tell them, never surprise a banker,” he says. “You might as well go in and have a plan.”
Second, only deal with Irish banks. “I think that one has gone out the window now, ha, ha.”
Fitzpatrick actually has loans with Bank of Scotland (Ireland) but that was a legacy of its takeover of the former state-owned ICC Bank, where he was a customer.
Third, never, ever sign a personal guarantee. “I’ve always stuck to that,” he says.
With his 50th birthday having passed in October, Fitzpatrick is now pondering the future of his own business.
A workaholic, he has never married and has no children to succeed him in the business.
“My lawyer in New York only rang me about a month ago about this,” he says. “I do hope I will meet someone, but in the meantime I have to put in place a plan.
“God forbid if something happens to me I have to have a plan in place to make sure my key staff are secure. If I marry someone all things change.”
Would he ever consider selling up?
“In the last three or four years people are coming to me chasing partnerships and I’ve turned them all down. I’d hate to put my brand on something if it’s not right.
“I do want an exit somewhere along the way. I don’t want to end up like my father, killing myself in the end.
“I want to expand the brand and if that means some sort of partnership then I might do that if it helps the business. I would like an exit but not today or tomorrow. I’m very happy with what I’m doing.”
CV: John Fitzpatrick
Name: John Fitzpatrick
Lives: New York
Hobbies: Skiing, kite surfing and golf .
Favourite Hotels: Dromoland Castle Hotel, Co Clare, and Corinthia Hotel, London.
Something you might expect: He was voted Irish American of the Year in 2010.
Something that might surprise: He flies helicopters.