Fitness giant Equinox Holdings Inc. has hired a top executive from Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts to be the first chief executive officer of its new hotel brand.
Christopher Norton, president, global product, and chief operating officer for Four Seasons, will start as the Equinox hotel brand CEO in the fall, according to Harvey Spevak, CEO of Equinox.
Equinox is creating a new high-end lodging brand that aims to attract the same well-heeled clientele that are members of its upscale gyms and pay premium prices.
The company doesn’t disclose its membership figures, but Mr. Spevak said that the number was in the “mid hundreds of thousands” at 82 gyms worldwide.
Still, the company is entering the luxury hotel market a time of increasing competition for the wealthy traveler. Brands like the Four Seasons, St. Regis and Waldorf Astoria have been trying to grow more aggressively, while brands like Hong Kong-based Langham Hotels & Resorts are spreading beyond their regional hubs.
Startup hotel brands sometimes struggle to attract capital partners to invest in real estate, but Equinox has an advantage here. Property developer Related Cos. is the majority owner of the fitness company, and it is investing or raising “several billions of dollars” toward acquiring sites for Equinox hotels. Mr. Spevak said that Related has made a financial commitment in five of the first six locations.
Equinox also hopes to distinguish itself with a blend of comfort and a focus on health and wellness.
The first hotel, a 225-room property under construction at the Hudson Yards development on Manhattan’s west side, is expected to open by early 2019. The site will include indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and a 60,000 square foot gym, the largest Equinox facility the company has built. Total cost of the first hotel is about $2 billion, according to the company.
Mr. Spevak said that a Los Angeles hotel is scheduled to open in 2020, and that Equinox has reached agreements for four other properties. Longer-term, the company is aiming to open 75 hotels worldwide.
Josh Wyatt, formerly a private equity executive at Patron Capital and the chief strategic officer at Generator Hostels, was hired as the hotel brand’s president in June.
Mr. Spevak said he expected the pace of development to pick up with Mr. Norton coming on board, too.
“His vision is of a luxury lifestyle hotel,” Mr. Spevak said of his new hotel CEO. “And he also has a passion for the fitness and spa business. He’s already an Equinox member.”
Mr. Norton, who wasn’t available for comment, spent 27 years at various positions with the Four Seasons. His résumé includes a regional vice president jobs in Asia and general manager of the Four Seasons’ Hotel George V in Paris.
A Four Seasons spokeswoman said that Mr. Norton will be succeeded by Christian Clerc, currently President, Hotel Operations Americas. His new title will be President, Worldwide Hotel Operations.