After decades in the corporate world, Bruce Seigel’s professional life has become family-focused as he settles into a new gig as general manager for The Colony.
He traded a snow-white environment for tropical pink when he arrived in Palm Beach over the summer from the ski haven of Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe. He’d worked for The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. for 20 years.
The Colony was purchased in December 2016 by Andrew Wetenhall, and his wife, Sarah, is president and chief executive officer. As it turns out, Seigel’s girlfriend, Lisl Ewing, was working as a human resources director at The Colony when they met several years ago.
“I got the job at Lake Tahoe, and she followed me out there as my significant other,” Seigel said. “We got married in May. The Wetenhalls reached out to both of us in April, asking if we would consider coming back to the property — me becoming general manager and her doing some special projects.”
Seigel turned the new page in his life in June.
He’s found that working for a family-run business is “totally different” from a corporate environment, especially in a town such as Palm Beach where so much of the job is community relations.
“When you work in a big corporation, sometimes you need some assistance or you have a question, and there are different people you call on as resources,” he said.
“But at the end of the day, when you’re working for a small family business, decisions are made quicker. They’re more nimble, and things get done faster. Decisions are made between the owner and general manager. There are fewer layers of complications.”
Seigel takes over for the previous general manager, Thomas List, who came on board in January 2018. He followed Lloyd Van Horn, who started as general manager in April 2017.
“It has to be the right fit,” Seigel said of the position. “Hotels, like people, go through growth processes. They mature, they develop.
“When the Wetenhalls bought the hotel three years ago, their strategy and needs were different than they are today. I would argue that three years from now the hotel may be different as well.
“The hotel is going through a tremendous growth phase, in terms of development, renovation and new projects. So, they brought in a GM who has a Ritz-Carlton background, and also somebody who has a significant sales and marketing background.”
The Colony’s Coral Ballroom was remodeled last year, and an adjacent garden is planned for outdoor events. “It’s just another step in the expansion.”
There’s a master plan to expand the pool and some of the other outdoor facilities, but managers are still working out the details.
Entertainment is what built The Colony’s legacy, and that’s a focus of his as the new season begins, Seigel said. Pianist Copeland Davis will be back in the lounge with his trio — a bass guitarist and a drummer — and a DJ, Adam Lipson, will be out at the pool on Saturdays with a Friday night vinyl records show in the lounge.
Copeland Davis “appeals to the traditional Palm Beacher who knows The Colony as an entertainment hub, while Adam Lipson appeals to the more contemporary set, with different types of music,” Seigel said. “I think we have a cross section of the community that enjoys our facilities.”
Lipson will host a “BYOV” program on Friday nights — that’s bring your own vinyl. He also uses a record collection handed down from his father, featuring Motown, disco, funk and ’80s.
“The new owners are doing a great job,” Lipson said. “I met Bruce up in the Hamptons. I really like what they’re doing with the hotel. It’s a landmark, but it’s nice to get some new blood coming in.”
Davis is considered a jazz pianist, but he gets into pop, rock and classical as well. He and Seigel were still working out the details of his schedule, but he’ll probably continue to play Thursdays and Saturdays in the lounge.
“I love this place,” Davis said of the hotel. “Everything good that has ever happened to me in my life and career happened when I was in Palm Beach. And here I am again. We’ll see what happens this time.”
Seigel is living in Lake Worth, close enough to the hotel to get there quickly, since management involves long — and odd — hours.
The hotel business, he said, “is a lifestyle. If this is not in your blood, if you don’t enjoy the tumult and the excitement a hotel like this brings to the table, you’re in the wrong business. And this place has everything you can imagine.”