The hospitality industry mourns the loss of the Lodging Unlimited CEO and co-founder of The Lodging Conference
By Mary Scoviak
Many in the hospitality industry were still trying to come to grips with the death of architect Michael Graves on March 12 when news came last week that Morris Lasky, chairperson and co-founder of The Lodging Conference and CEO of Lodging Unlimited had died after battling pancreatic cancer. He was 78. Lasky is survived by his wife, Mary Lou Lasky.
Without ever shouting his message, the soft-spoken Lasky was a powerful voice in the hospitality industry for more than 40 years. He started his hospitality career in 1956 as a general manager with what was then Motel Enterprises. By age 23, he was vice president of operations for the entire chain. He parlayed that experience into the post of senior vice president of American Motor Inns, a Helmsley-Spears subsidiary which specialized in acquiring troubled hospitality properties. His eight years learning the ropes of hotel/motel turnarounds led to his decision to form Lodging Unlimted in 1970. The focus of the new firm was to provide management, consulting and marketing services to the hospitality industry. He was right on target with his mission statement. Lasky directed more than $7 billion worth of management activities, development, real estate and financing over his career.
But it was the vision behind his launch of The Lodging Conference with co-founder and producer Harry Javer in 1995 that established Lasky as a major influencer in the hotel world. Every autumn’s Lodging Conference in Phoenix was a can’t-miss forum for all the big names in the business as well as those who hoped to be. Lasky was a good curator. He gave attendees a reason to come—like the fact that more than 85 percent of the attendees were presidents or CEOs and the companies they headed controlled more than 3 million hotel rooms worldwide.
What set Lasky’s events apart was that, behind all the numbers, he still approached them like the motel general manager he once was. When I worked with him and his team on moderating a session on design team building for the roll-out of The Hotel Investment Networking Conference (THINC) last May in Chicago, he didn’t email to discuss the details; he called. And, he took time to phone me up with his post-conference thank-you—just me and about two days’ worth of other moderators and speakers!
He also understood that The Lodging Conference and THINC were networking opportunities. He saw that they had to meet the needs of international chain leaders as well as the hotel operations and real estate firms that were much farther down the ladder. His think-tank format opened up those lines of communication and encouraged a real exchange of ideas from a variety of perspectives.
That’s quite a legacy. “His industry knowledge and contacts were invaluable when we started this event 21 years ago. Morris will be missed, and we will honor his memory by continuing to improve this great industry event that he so loved,” said Harry Javer, co-founder and producer of The Lodging Conference.
The Lasky family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to:
University of Chicago
Cancer Research Foundation
For Dr. Kindler and Dr. Baron
5841 S. Maryland Ave,
Chicago, Il 60637
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