Gostelow Report: Le Calvez has ‘never felt as free’

“My eyes light up at the realization that I am finally going to do my own thing,” says Didier Le Calvez, CEO of Paris-based Michel Reybier Hospitality, who in a few weeks’ time will be president of Ré Consulting.

“This is absolutely the right time,” he declared. “Michel Reybier, whose wide portfolio of interests includes 100% of the La Réserve hotels in France and Switzerland, and 90% of the Victoria-Jungfrau Collection, is passing much of his responsibility to his daughter. When I joined him in 2016 it was never intended to last more than five years and our relationship has already evolved into a partnership with many shared passions, including hotels and our respective vineyards.”

Didier Le Calvez takes yet another call during a working dinner.
Didier Le Calvez takes yet another call during a working dinner.

Let us get this straight. Ré Consulting is not exactly new – Le Calvez and his wife, fellow hotelier Olivia Mathé Le Calvez, registered the company 10 years ago. And it is not exactly consulting, which he considers a dirty word.  It is more a customized conciergerie for owners, and the pair understands that side of the industry.

“We own two hotels on Ile de Ré, off France’s Atlantic Coast – one is Relais & Châteaux (Olivia is the consortium’s deputy secretary-elect).” The company also starts with the considerable asset of owning the Château Clarisse vineyard in St-Emilion, which has been brilliantly nurtured by winemaker Stéphane Derenoncourt, whose other clients include Francis Ford Coppola. “To finance the startup of Ré Consulting, we are selling 25% of our vineyard,” Le Calvez explained.

One challenge today is that many hoteliers today lack creativity, and they do not listen to what consumers actually want. “I picked up the idea of complimentary local car service when I was with Four Seasons in New York but at La Réserve Paris we have the free service until 1 a.m., for those who dine late. Generosity brings good returns,” Didier Le Calvez stated. Returns are also needed for owners: At The Pierre in New York, he turned what had been a US$5 million loss to a US$17 million annual profit in two years by working on yield: Regular guests, who may have been given suites with Central Park views at considerable discounts, found they had to pay the full rate.

“I see a big gap in the industry. People are more sophisticated today and they are loyal to one property rather than a hard brand. Big groups are moving into the soft-brand space, but owners do not like being tied into those groups’ fixed contracts – I believe in selective entry and easy exit, and in certain cities I can guarantee double-digit returns but I do need to take risks. There is a lot of personal money around looking for good hotel projects, banks are offering negative interest, and I think there is room for a collection of independent hotels.”

Ré Consulting kicks off with what Le Calvez says are superb credentials, curiosity, good health, ideas, passion, reputation and track record, and vitality. “We are a lean-clean team of three, Olivia and her assistant, and me. We will be working from our homes in Paris and on Ile de Ré, and managing our three kids, aged 2½, 8 and 11. I am development, sales and marketing and finance: Olivia is operations and social media, working more and more with Instagram and WeChat (Facebook is dated).”

Already, Le Calvez is fielding telephone calls from big-name personal investors from North America and CAC40, Cotation Assistée en Continu, the 40 top stocks on the Paris Stock Exchange. He anticipates three to five projects at any one time – wherever in the world. He also wants to invest, and do his own hotels, perhaps a little George V (a baby version of Four Seasons George V, Paris), certainly something in Paris, and New York.

“Michel Reybier is very supportive and we will continue to work together, in one form or another. Personally, I have never felt as free as I do now,” the entrepreneur laughed.