People on the Move: Virgin Hotels, Aqua-Aston, Steigenberger

Virgin Hotels, Miami, Florida, has welcomed two new members to its corporate team: general counsel, Liza Stone, and director of sales, Jodi Forslund.

Stone joined Virgin Hotels as general counsel in April 2022. As the chief legal officer, Stone oversees Virgin Hotel’s domestic and international legal affairs, including corporate governance, regulatory compliance, labor and employment, intellectual property, and litigation matters.

Stone brings over 25 years of legal experience in domestic and cross-border hospitality transactions. Prior to joining Virgin Hotels, Stone was a senior member of the Global Hospitality Group at Sidley Austin LLP. At Sidley, Stone represented institutional owners, investors, and lenders as well as major hotel brands in connection with acquisitions and dispositions, financings, joint ventures, and mergers and acquisitions for hospitality assets. Prior to Sidley, Stone worked at internationally recognized law firms, and served as associate general counsel of the Real Estate Healthcare Lending Group of a publicly traded commercial finance company.

Forslund will be responsible for leveraging revenue opportunities and analyzing current financial initiatives across the brand while working with the commercial sales teams at all hotels. She will formulate targeted incentive plans and KPI’s to meet company goals, while nurturing current relationships with high profile clientele to maintain consistent brand trust and loyalty.

Prior to joining Virgin Hotels, Forslund was the vice president of marketing and development at Forssa Group. She has also held positions such as regional vice president of sales and marketing at Benchmark Hospitality International, and regional sales director at MTM Luxury Lodging.

From left to right: Sam Johnson (Pyramid Luxury & Lifestyle), Jodi Forslund (Virgin Hotels), Liza Stone (Virgin Hotels), Graeme Benn (JW Marriott Parq Vancouver and The Douglas, Autograph Collection).

General Managers, Managing Directors

Hotel Drover, an Autograph Collection hotel, Fort Worth, Texas, has hired Kristin Assad as vice president, general manager and Ryan Thomas as assistant general manager. Most recently, Assad served as regional vice president of operations for Coury Hospitality, Irving, Texas. Thomas has held titles such as executive operations manager, director of business optimization and brand planner for different brands in the luxury hospitality space.

JW Marriott Parq Vancouver and the Douglas, Autograph Collection, Vancouver, Canada, have welcomed Graeme Benn as dual property general manager. Benn has worked in leadership roles at brands such as Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co., Marriott International, Coast Hotels and Delta Hotels.

Philip Forte is joining Virgin Hotels Nashville, Tennessee, as general manager. Forte most was general manager at 21c Museum Hotel, Nashville and Louisville, Kentucky.

Steigenberger Hotels & Resorts has welcomed Walid Nabil and Mehdi Othmani as general managers of Steigenberger Pyramids Cairo and at its partner hotel the Cairo Pyramids Hotel, and the Steigenberger Al Dau Beach Hotel, respectively. Nabil most recently acted as cluster general manager for Sunrise Resort & Cruises in Hurghada, Egypt. Othmani joins from the Hilton Budapest City, Budapest, Hungary, where he was general manager.

Embassy Suites by Hilton Nashville Downtown, Tennessee, has appointed Michael Nelson as general manager. Nelson was a general manager at several other properties, including the Union Station Nashville Hotel.

Mondrian South Beach, Miami, Florida, has welcomed Anthony Rico as its new general manager. Rico has held executive level positions across luxury properties, including general manager at The Boca Raton Beach Club in Boca Raton, Florida; assistant general manager at SLS-Baha Mar in Nassau, Bahamas; and as vice president of operations at Caesars Entertainment in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Sable at Navy Pier, a Curio Collection by Hilton, Chicago, Illinois, has appointed Randy Romero as general manager. Most recently, Romero served as general manager of the Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City, California.

The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club, St. Petersburg, Florida, has welcomed Vanessa Williams as general manager. Williams was previously GM at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, California.

Cote Family Destinations, Nisswa, Minnesota, has chosen Dennis Wilson as the new general manager of Grand View Lodge Spa and Golf Resort. Most recently, Wilson was general manager at Hyatt Regency Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.


Benchmark, Pyramid Luxury & Lifestyle, Boston, The Woodlands, Texas, has named Sam Johnson vice president of operations. Johnson most recently served as senior vice president of operations for Hotel Equities and The Hotel Group for the Pacific Northwest.

Food & Beverage

Cinder House at Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis, Missouri, announced the expansion of its team of wine professionals with two new hires: Alisha Blackwell-Calvert and David Phil Villacis. Blackwell-Calvert’s experience includes working alongside now Master Sommelier Andrey Ivanov at Reeds American Table in St. Louis. Villacis brings an extensive background both in wine and food service as well as in viticulture gained from a stint in a Willamette Valley, Oregon, vineyard.

The Josie Hotel, Autograph Collection and The Velvet Restaurant and Lounge in Rossland, British Columbia, Canada, have welcomed Takashi Harada as their new executive chef. Harada joins from his previous stint at the Farimont Jasper Park Lodge, Jasper, Canada.

Garden of the Gods Resort and Club, Colorado Springs, Colorado, has hired Ante Kulusic as vice president of food and beverage. Kulusic previously served as the food and beverage director for all Sea World’s operations in Florida.

The Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel, Omaha, Nebraska, has welcomed Leah Meyer as pastry chef. Meyer comes from The Don CeSar Hotel in St. Pete Beach, Florida, where she served as pastry supervisor.

Laura Modica is joining Virgin Hotels Nashville, Tennessee, as director of food and beverage. Modica previously served as a food and beverage, lifestyle and events consultant and worked with Hospitality Gaming Advisors ownership and W Nashville.

Stray Horse, the restaurant at JW Marriott Houston by the Galleria, Houston, Texas, has hired Chef Julio Cesar Valdivia as executive chef. Chef Valdivia has more than 14 years of experience as an executive chef in hotels in Peru, Colombia, Dubai, India, and Costa Rica.

Sales & Marketing

Embassy Suites by Hilton Nashville Downtown, Tennessee, has appointed Annebeth Kearney Black as director of sales and marketing. Previously, she served as the associate director of sales and marketing for the 591-room Grand Hyatt Nashville.

Hotel del Coronado, part of Curio Collection by Hilton, San Diego, California, selected Danielle Boyles as commercial director. Most recently, Boyles served as director of sales and marketing at Grand Hyatt Vail, Colorado.

Hotel Drover, an Autograph Collection hotel, Fort Worth, Texas, has hired Alexie Estrada as director of resort marketing. Estrada brings more than 10 years of luxury marketing and social media experience to her role at Hotel Drover.

Aqua-Aston Hospitality, Honolulu, Hawaii, announced the promotion of Rhonda Khabir to senior vice president of sales and marketing. Khabir joined Aqua-Aston in 2018 as the company’s vice president of sales.

Margaritaville Beach Resort Nassau, Bahamas, has appointed Brett Lindsay as director of sales and marketing. Lindsay’s experience includes sales stints at Palmer House Hilton, Chicago, Illinois, Walt Disney World Resorts, Florida, Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort & Spa, Marco Island, Florida, Sundial Beach Resort & Spa and Sanibel Harbour Marriot Resort & Spa, both in Sanibel, Florida.

Spa and Wellness

The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa Avon, Vail Valley, Colorado, has chosen Molly Gallagher as spa manager at the Spa Anjali. Gallagher has been a part of the Spa Anjali team since 2009, starting as a massage therapist before being promoted to lead massage therapist and then spa supervisor.


Garden of the Gods Resort and Club, Colorado Springs, Colorado, has hired Greg Heartt as director of racquet sports. Most recently, Heartt served as head tennis professional at Florida’s Isleworth Golf & Country Club.

Hotel Drover, an Autograph Collection hotel, Fort Worth, Texas, has hired Elga Sickler as vice president of people and culture. Sickler previously served as the corporate director of people and culture for Makeready, Dallas, Texas.