Ian Schrager & AHL Founder Ben Pundole Open 10th Annual L.E. Miami

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On the big changes in travel and lifestyle media in the last decade, and the blurred lines between traditional media, social media, influencer opinion, etcetera. 

Ian: I’m still trying to figure it out because it’s still so new. One thing I don’t like is when influencers try to get free rooms. I could really go off about that one. We’re all learning how to communicate, but you have time to figure it out as long as the product is great. Steve Jobs said, “Nothing else matters but the product. If the product is great, the rest will take care of itself.” I feel the same way. All these things we have to figure out- technology, the booking engines, and everything else that’s the future of our industry, none of it matters without a great product. 

On the greatest lessons from Studio 54, which was open for just 33 months and gave recognition, contacts and the motivation to catapult a hotel career. 

Ian: Pay your taxes! But- believe it or not a nightclub is a great learning ground. You have the same liquor, the same music, the same thing everybody else has. So all you really have is the magic you’re able to create by how you put it together, and how you create this kind of excitement in the air you could cut with a knife, it’s so thick. It’s all about the product. Nothing else matters but the product, nothing, I learned that then. Studio 54 was like holding onto a lightning bolt, and it became about just feeding the monster. It got to be intoxicating for both Steve and I. The most important thing I learned is to play by the rules- I mean that seriously. We were so taken up by the success of it we thought maybe the rules didn’t apply to us, but boy, we found out pretty quickly how that went. 

On greatest passions outside hotels. 

Ian: My family, far and away. I didn’t get married until later, I had done everything and then some, and now I just couldn’t be happier in this part of my life. I love my wife, I love my family, I have 5 kids, and I do my work. 

Ben: Age is clearly a state of mind, and you’re definitely one of the youngest people I know. You’ve got more motivation, ambition and cultural awareness than anybody. What is your secret? 

Ian: No secret, I love what I do. I don’t do it for money, I do it because I love it and I have to. That’s it. It’s not a job; I think to be good at something you have to love what you do, and if you don’t love it, you should move into something else because life’s too short. The journey is too short. If you can love your life and the people you’re with, and your family and what you do, you are the richest person in the entire world. 

Ben: Ian has certainly influenced my life, and inspired our entire industry. Since 1999, twenty-four years ago, we have done some incredible things together, and opened some beautiful hotels. Any favorite moments?

Ian: There’s one thing that sticks out that perhaps only Ben and I can really understand. We had just opened up the EDITION Hotel in Times Square. Diana Ross was up there entertaining and she called Nile Rogers out on the stage and they were performing together. I was sitting on the side with my family, Ben was right in the thick of it in a booth looking right at the stage. Our eyes caught each other, and boy, only he and I knew. I looked at his face, and the supreme enjoyment that he had by doing something that turned on all these people. When I looked at him I knew, because I felt it right back. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

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