Simon Cooper

By Rosanna Caira

TORONTO — The hotel industry in Canada and around the globe is saddened by the passing of Simon Cooper last week.

The renowned hotelier passed away this week after battling cancer. Cooper was born in County of Essex, Eng. The MBA graduate arrived in Canada in 1972 eager to work in hospitality. He got his start as a management trainee at the Château Champlain, where he made his entrée into Canadian hotels.

Over his renowned career, Cooper was an influential hotelier who spent many years leading brands such as Delta Hotels and Marriott Hotels of Canada, before leaving Canada in 1999 to join Ritz Hotels. In 2000, Cooper was promoted to president and COO of the Ritz Carlton brand globally.

Under his leadership, the brand realized significant growth and initiated new products such as the Ritz-Carlton Residences and the Ritz-Carlton Reserve and it also earned the highest accolades from organizations such as the Luxury Institute, and J.D. Power and Associates. The company also won the World Saver Award from Condé Nast for its Community Footprints program.

Cooper’s distinguished career as a hotelier spanned more than 50 years, three continents and five hotel brands. In addition to his time at Delta Hotels and Marriott, he also worked in Israel for Dan Hotels and at Omni Hotels. Through it all, it was his passion for people and product that moved him forward, creating a legacy of excellence and success wherever he worked. Cooper was also instrumental in the formation of the Canadian Tourism Commission, CTC, (now Destination Canada) back in 1994, as a vehicle to fuel marketing dollars to promote Canada as a destination. Two years ago, Hotelier magazine awarded Cooper with a Lifetime Achievement Award at our annual Pinnacle Awards celebration.

According to Michael Beckley, formerly with Marriott Hotels and now retired, who worked with Cooper, “Simon’s strengths as an innovative leader of people and the industry, were demonstrated with an unrivalled work ethic, and as a role model to the industry as a whole borne out by the many awards and recognitions he received over his career span. He was a consummate professional with a distinguished career earning the respect of his colleagues and peers on three continents.”

For David McMillan, former hotelier, and currently president of Axis Hospitality, Cooper was “a giant in our industry — a gentleman in so many ways. He left his huge mark in the industry through his long, successful career in our midst as a warm friend, an enthusiastic and creative leader, energetic and engaging at every level. He will be missed by all who knew him and we will reminisce. He was taken too soon but he filled his and our lives to the brim, as he did for Marcelle and his family. A global industry giant has moved on and left in his wake many happy memories around the world while raising the bar in our industry in so many ways. RIP Simon. Our sympathies to Marcelle and the whole family.”

According to Josef Ebner, regional director of the Chelsea Hotel (once part of the Delta brand), “Simon was a well-respected leader, but for me, he was an amazing mentor. I learned so much from him. While he always challenged me to be my best, his management style was demanding but always fair and respectful.”

Most recently, Cooper served as president of Simon Cooper & Associates, a consultancy based in Maryland, where he was involved in various hotel deals around the world. He also served on the Board of Directors at Benchmark Hotels; was lead consultant of the Ownership Entity of Peninsula Papagayo; senior consultant at Gencom; and consultant with Cabot Links, a Canadian company developing a destination resort in Saint Lucia.

Cooper leaves his wife, Marcelle; daughters Helen and her husband, Eric, and Susannah and her husband, Tony; son, Jason and his wife, Erin; and four grandchildren, Cole, Zachary, Benjamin, and Evan and a legion of friends and associates around the world.


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