You can take the man out of the hotel, but you can’t take the hotel out of the man.
This is what comes to mind when talking to John Ceriale, the hotel adviser to Blackstone and other private equity companies. He had his eye set on the industry from a young age.
“I was on the Boardwalk in Atlantic city with my parents when I was in the 11th grade,” Ceriale said. “I went to find a restroom at the Traymore Hotel, and I saw a glass door with a man’s name on it which said 'general manager.' I said to myself, ‘That’s what I’d like to be one day.’”
Ceriale’s infatuation with the hotel business solidified when he entered UNLV Hotel School after graduating from Loyola College in Baltimore.
“I wanted to work,” said Ceriale, whose blue-collar background meshed well with the worker-centric Vegas of the 1970s. “I got a great introduction to the basics of the hotel business working at Caesars Palace, which was my first job after graduation.”
Ceriale’s name could have ended up on many C-suite doors at major hotel companies around the world. However, in 1997, the opportunity came to work as the hotel adviser to Blackstone, and for the past 20 years he has served as the private equity company’s lead consultant on the hotel industry.
“Soon after I started with Blackstone, they bought the Savoy Group in London, which was an amazing deal,” he said.
As an adviser to Blackstone, Ceriale has also been involved in many headlining hotel deals, from the company’s purchase of Hilton Hotels to the sale of New York’s Waldorf Astoria, as well as the purchase of Las Vegas’ own Cosmopolitan hotel.
Despite his shift to private equity, Ceriale remains true to his first love: the hotel business.
“I’m a pure hotel operator,” he said. “It’s all I ever really wanted to be.”