World-famous hoteliers tee up for book launch
Michael Davern and Phillippe Leboeuf help launch Conor Kenny’s book at the K Club
Philippe Leboeuf: French hotelier helped Conor Kenny launch his new book, ‘Dancing at the Fountain’, this week in Kildare. Photograph: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images
Michael Davern, chief executive of the K Club, and renowned French hotelier Phillippe Leboeuf, general manager of the Mandarin Oriental in Paris, helped business consultant Conor Kenny to launch his new book on Wednesday evening at Michael Smurfit’s Kildare golf resort.
Kenny – a son of Ivor Kenny, who was was a management guru before anybody knew what the term meant – has written Dancing at the Fountain, a series of conversations with seven of the world’s best-known hoteliers.
Davern, who is related to members of the old Tipperary Fianna Fáil dynasty, flies the flag for Irish hoteliers in the book.
He outlines the lessons learned in his career which started in Davern’s pub in Cashel, where former taoiseach Jack Lynch used to hold the odd meeting of ministers.
Davern has worked for a trio of billionaires in his time – Dermot Desmond at Sandy Lane in Barbados, Smurfit at the K Club and German SAP tycoon Hasso Plattner, who owns the Fancourt golf resort in South Africa.
The Irish hotelier muses that such wealthy proprietors don’t “just want to own a hotel; they want to create something very special, something very unique, something that suits them and the way they perceive their lifestyle”.
His recollections of working for Plattner are the most colourful part of his interview – the chaotic circumstances of his initial job interview, relations with the staff who were mistrustful of a white foreigner and negotiating with bureaucracy-mad South African trade unions.
Davern is less forthcoming with juicy details when it comes to his account of working for Desmond and Smurfit, however. The most we learn is that they are “Ireland’s most respected businessmen” and working for them is “a privilege, a dream come true”.
Kenny says the purpose of the book wasn’t to get the hoteliers to reveal gossipy details of the famous people they had met during their careers, but instead to impart advice to the next generation of budding hoteliers.
He explained that he got all seven hoteliers’ approval over the final text of their interviews: “Attention to detail is what makes all of them tick.”
The book is available in Dubray Books and online.