I’ve learned a few interesting things hanging out with Gerald Lawless at the Ritz today. Ok, there were other people there, perhaps two hundred of them. And he wasn’t talking directly to me. He was addressing an audience as part of the ‘Emirates NBD Global Business Series,’ organised in coordination with The Intelligent SME magazine.
But still, I did learn some things I bet few of us knew about the Chairman of Jumeirah Group:
- Irish-born into a dairy farming business, he got engaged when eighteen and married at twenty. He quips about it: “Behind every successful man there is a surprised woman”.
- He really likes Rory McIlroy. So much so that, with a Jumeirah endorsement, the youngster went from amateur golfer at eighteen to world champion at twenty-three. Incidentally, the highest spike in web traffic on Jumeirah.com happened when Rory won the US Open wearing a cap with a certain fiery logo imprinted on it. Also, when they decided to endorse Rory, it was the first time in recorded history when a hospitality CFO went to the CEO with an idea on how to spend more money (hic!).
- His older son is a lawyer in Abu Dhabi. His wife is also a lawyer. His younger son, now in hotel school, occasionally threatens to take the same path and open a law firm called Lawless, Lawless, and mom. Someone commented on the whole Lawless lawyer thing. It must have been the umpteen millionth joke on the topic.
- There were two milestones in his career that he mentioned. The year 1978, when he moved to pursue a career in Dubai, and June 1st, 1997 when he accepted his first position with Jumeirah. I reflected on those dates being very significant for me too. The former was when I first wore diapers, the latter was the date I received a call from the office of George Soros about a scholarship for four years of undergraduate studies. In other words, the year I ventured out from behind my mother’s skirts. Hardly a contest here, Mr. Lawless.
- There was a moment when he recognized me – from earlier in the evening, no doubt, when I made a point of reminding him of all the years in which we almost met on the stage of the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC). Repeatedly. Seizing the moment, I asked him to share some hint about the innovations that Jumeirah has in store for us, now that they are reinventing their restaurant portfolio. His answer was cryptic: “Work on your Spanish. Wear a sombrero.”
What a perfect excuse to play a game!
Jumeirah is about to unveil an innovative restaurant concept. There are clues (see above). How about a contest and a prize?
Dear reader, here is how it works:
Give me a paragraph with your best guess about the innovations we are likely to see coming from Jumeirah as part of this concept. Maybe include a link to an existing concept that you find inspiring and relevant to the clues. Submit your entry as a comment here. If your guess is close to the actual concept, I will treat you to a dinner for two as soon as this restaurant opens. Perhaps, and I cannot promise that, even on opening night.
No kidding. The best guess wins a dinner for two, my treat!
Lawless. Spanish. Sombrero.“Echale ganas!!!”
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