Shangri-La GM Stephen Darling eyes directorships, charity and contract work

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

City hotelier eases into part-time work

Bruce Constantineau

Longtime city hotelier Stephen Darling won’t have to frazzle himself by working at breakneck speed anymore.

He leaves his position next week as general manager of the Shangri-La Hotel in Vancouver, just seven months after opening the upscale property at Georgia and Thurlow.

“I have been contemplating this for over a year,” the 54-year-old Darling said in an interview Friday after the surprise announcement of his departure. “My plan is to ease out of full-time work and into part-time work as an independent director.”

He was recently named a director of a Swiss-based private trust, and has put his name forward to be considered as a member of the provincial government’s new tourism advisory council.

“I would like to pick up three or four directorships and do some charitable and contract work, and just not work at 500 miles an hour anymore,” Darling said.

He rejoined Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts five years ago and spearheaded its efforts to expand the brand throughout North America. The recession delayed a few U.S. opportunities, but the Vancouver hotel opened this year and a new Toronto Shangri-La property is scheduled to open in 2012.

Darling had previously been general manager of the Westin Grand Hotel and the Pacific Palisades Hotel, which used to be a Shangri-La property.

He said he’s excited about his business future, and noted several colleagues have already called to say they wish they could do the same thing.

“There’s never an easy time to leave a hotel, but the best time is probably now, in August, before you start the business planning for the next year,” Darling said. “Then the incoming person can be involved in the business plan.”

He said he’s leaving a full hotel with revenues and market share numbers that are “blue skying ahead of the competition.”

“Our staff are happy and getting maximum hours in hard economic times, and that makes me happy,” Darling said.

Ed Brea — currently general manager of Traders Hotel Kuala Lumpur — will take over as Shangri-La’s new Vancouver general manager at the end of September. He was previously hotel manager at Island Shangri-La in Hong Kong and general manager at Shangri-La Hotel, The Marina, Cairns.

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