With a distinctive style all her own, Grace Leo stepped out front in Europe’s design hotel movement and made her name synonymous with visionary concepts and creative executions with refinement, artistic flair, and authenticity.
The daughter of a Hong Kong hotelier, Grace Leo has been involved in the hotel world all her life. After completing her hotel education at Stanford and Cornell Universities in 1977, Grace Leo launched her career at Inter-Continental Hotels and Sheraton Group. In 1981, she moved to Paris to join Warwick International Hotels, as Vice President she was responsible for the group's expansion in North America and Europe which grew from 2 to 14 hotels in five years.
By 1988 Grace started her own company, identifying the small luxury independent hotel sector as an area of huge potential growth, she set up G.L.A. Hotels to offer professional consulting services to investors in this niche market and has prospered by developing many lifestyle projects across the world. Her first major independent project, The Guanahani Hotel at St. Barthélémy was acclaimed as one of the world's great luxury hideaways, whilst the Hotel Montalembert, which opened in late 1989, was one of the seminal properties in the design hotel movement of the current decade. The same inimitable combination of design flair and management expertise has also been applied to the chic Château de Noirieux in the Loire valley and, in conjunction with the rock band U2, to the stylish and quintessentially Irish Clarence hotel in Dublin. In January 1999, following the purchase of The Royal Riviera in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and Hotel Montalembert in Paris, the Westmont/Alliance and Goldman Sachs’ hotel fund appointed Grace Leo as a management consultant for these two properties, to strengthen their foothold in the luxury hotel sector.
Subsequently, they purchased the 115-room Hotel Bel Ami in January 2000 which was sold in 2004 for a record price after being fully renovated and repositioned by G.L.A. Hotels.
Arguably one of Grace’s most exciting projects was the complete repositioning of Hotel Lancaster in Paris. An institution for over 50 years, this underperforming hotel was purchased from The Savoy Group in late 1995 by Grace and her husband Stephane Andrieu and reopened under G.L.A. management in September 1996 with an immediate return-on-investment to the owners. The result speaks volumes for Grace Leo's expertise, flair, and perfectionism as well as the battalion of designers and craftspeople she sought from around the world to undertake the work.
In 2007 Grace Leo collaborated again with Westmont Hospitality with the acquisition of 2 Parisian properties each with 100 rooms, in need of upgrade and positioning. One is located behind the Champs-Elysées rebranded as Hotel Beauchamps, while the second property located nearby the Opera was re-named, Hotel Jules. Both hotels outperformed their competitive sets and have been sold in 2013.
In 2014, she was tapped to head up Reignwoods's hotel and hospitality development division, and for the foreseeable future, she is committed to London, "the capital of the world right now", and has put her stamp on this complex and sophisticated conversion of the landmark former Port of London Authority building which will become the capital's second Four Seasons hotel.
The historic property at Ten Trinity Square is at the heart of a £300 million project that will see around 100 hotel rooms, a private members' club and 41 apartments rise up inside the magnificent Grade-II listed building overlooking a garden square on the edge of the City of London. It is due to welcome its first guests in 2017.
Over her illustrious career as a contributing force in the hospitality industry, Grace has created and co-authored over 20 independent and memorable hotels all over the world.
In parallel, Grace has launched since January 2015, her own luxury online concept store A Touch of Grace. www.atouchofgrace.com
Known for her singular ‘East Meets West” design and lifestyle concepts, the products featured on Grace’s new website are all inspired by the beautiful things that distinguish her ‘Boutique Hotels’ and transform these properties into world-class destinations of such distinctive beauty and elegance. Targeting the new middle class in China, the online selection features only authentically European products, A Touch of Grace enables anyone to now experience the riches of a European lifestyle, right at home, by surrounding themselves with those products that Grace personally endorses and enjoys herself.
1981 – 86: Vice President, Development and Operations
Warwick International Hotels, Paris, France
1979 – 81: Front Office Duty Manager; subsequently Restaurant Manager
Sheraton Centre Hotel, New York, USA
1977 – 79: Corporate Sales Manager
Intercontinental Hotels, San Francisco, USA
2006 - 2016: Executive Committee, Leading Hotels of the World, Switzerland
2009 - 2012: Member of the Board of Governors, American Hospital, Paris, France