To know JP Oliver is to know his job. Oliver—the regional vice president for Morgans Hotel Group—oversees the southern swath of the brand’s portfolio, including the Delano, the Shore Club and the Mondrian in Miami Beach, Hotel Las Palapas in Mexico and San Juan Water & Beach Club Hotel in Puerto Rico. As a self-described “very single workaholic who exists in a constant state of controlled chaos,” Oliver estimates he averages four hours of sleep per night. With the little time he has away from this three-ring circus, Oliver eschews home-cooked meals and kicking back with his TiVo to visit other hotels, restaurants and nightclubs for research and inspiration.
“I have the best job in our company and maybe the whole industry because it’s all about having fun,” he says. “Remember summer vacations when you were a kid? That’s basically my job description and what I want my guests to experience.”
A young Oliver recognized the marvelous effect his father’s suave skills as a host had on his parents’ social circle. “They just always seemed to be having a great time,” he says of growing up in Central Florida’s Melbourne Beach around family and friends in the hospitality business. Oliver soon followed suit, attending hotel-management schools in Switzerland and Colorado before landing gigs at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington DC, Grand Wailea in Maui and LXR Luxury Resorts & Hotels in the Caribbean. It was at LXR that Morgans discovered Oliver and wooed him back to Florida. “Morgans and I had the same goals and viewed hospitality as entertainment and creating stories.” An outspoken individual who doesn’t thrive in vanilla settings, Oliver fit right into Morgans’ ensemble of characters; the company prefers the term “cast member.” Under his direction, the Delano weathered the recession gracefully to become the envy of many a sheer-curtained copycat, and retooled its amenities—like expanding Agua Spa into a local hangout and The Florida Room into a hub for mixology and impromptu live music performances.
“The music just morphed into this dirty little secret,” he says of the highlights, such as when the Killers staged an encore there after their American Airlines Arena concert. “They marched in pumped up with all their gear.” Based at the Delano, Oliver divides the other half of his schedule between the Shore Club, where his latest task is renovating guest rooms with warmer décor and the Redroom for better traffic flow, and the Mondrian, which unveiled its stellar marina with 28 boat slips and full watersports activities this winter. Too busy to valet, he flits among his flock on a white Vespa. “I only drive Italian!” he says.
Trait that got you where you are: It’s a combination of adventurousness, tenacity and not being afraid to speak my mind. If you don’t walk your own path, you can’t lead well. Morgans news: We just launched an interactive experience at the Delano to understand our guests better. If it works, we’ll roll it out in all of our hotels.
Next wave for the industry: Affordable places that have a coolness and pop culture element without being elitist.
Celeb sighting that left you speechless: I see celebs so often that it never affects me, except once with Muhammad Ali. I’m not even a boxing fan, but you can’t help but be pulled in by his allure.
Greatest on-the-job challenge: Communication, which is not only our greatest challenge but our greatest success. We start the day with roundtable meetings to learn and never be stale.