When you consider the concept of a souvenir, you think of a snow globe or maybe sporting memorabilia, but rarely do you think of collecting properties. Meet Australia’s undisputed master of Monopoly, Jerry Schwartz. Or rather, Dr Jerry Schwartz.
A man of mosaic interests, Schwartz has always seen hotels as a pivotal part of the local community; his father became interested in hotels after having had most of his portfolio as shopping centres. Schwartz started out by owning and operating local pubs, while practising as a doctor, and now has the largest privately owned portfolio of hotels in Australia: at last count 14, including the new Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour, the Fairmont Resort and Spa Blue Mountains, Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley and the Four Points by Sheraton at Sydney Central Park. “My father always told me to pursue medicine, and that the family business will always be there,” Schwartz says. “I always thought that if I worked 24/7 in medicine that I would burn out. I enjoyed hospitality, and refurbishing hotels, but slowly this has overtaken my commitment to medicine.”
While he’s an investment tycoon by anyone’s measurement, Schwartz is by no means the traditional large-scale hotel owner. His hands-on approach with everything from beer (his brews Glamarama Summer Ale, Darlo Dark and Paddo Pale are stocked in his hotel rooms) to technology keeps him close to the pulse of the operations and gives him an intimate understanding of the decision-making process. He is so hands-on that he could probably tell you the number of bolts used in every individual beam in any of his hotels. But he remains modest when assessing his skill at juggling countless roles and projects. This modus-operandi lead to his acquisition of the Four Points by Sheraton in Sydney’s Central Park district, having been awarded the “Great New Place to Live and/or Work” prize, due to the precinct’s investment in green and sustainable technology. The hotel holds a five-star Green Star rating, largely due to 93 per cent of all demolition waste from the precinct development already being recycled.
His consideration of input/output doesn’t cease just with the physical building. Schwartz has a focus on local community impact with each project he undertakes and is one of the largest private employers in the Lower Hunter region of New South Wales and seeks to invest further into the area, taking on the baton to push for additional government funding for the region, claiming most infrastructure development is funded by local operators such as himself, rather than receiving suitable distributions.
“[Hotels] are about people, designed to function for people,” Schwartz says. “They require continual planning and work. But, like many things, you get back what you give.” At the heart of his world is his family: wife Debbie, son Dane and twins Amber and Lara. As the foundation concrete was laid at the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour — the first five-star hotel to be built in this city since the 2000 Olympics — the handprints of his children were set in stone; a symbolic gesture acknowledging his foundation. You also get the feeling that many of Schwartz’s hotels were designed with his young family in mind, from the fish tanks to the movie theatres to the family suites and the pet-friendly areas. Parenthood, he says, has proven to be a transformative experience. “Being a father has added a wonderful dimension to my life. It is a pleasure to let some of yourself dissipate, and see your children soak it up,” he says.
At the opening of both the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour and the Four Points by Sheraton, charities were offered hotel floors to sell to raise vital funds for their respective causes. He was praised for this unique initiative that significantly helped more than 30 charities.
As a practising doctor, Schwartz has worked in the fields of emergency medicine, surgery (including cardiothoracic, neurosurgery, plastic surgery and burns), ophthalmology (including laser-eye surgery), oculoplastic surgery, cosmetic and also in laser surgery. He has donated his time and expertise to assisting in remote parts of Mongolia and India, and to setting up clinics in Timor-Leste. Even today, although increasingly involved in the world of hospitality and hotels, he continues to practice in Sydney’s Matraville, focusing primarily on cosmetic medicine but also involved in a project using stem cells to improve the life of people with multiple sclerosis.
While his contemporaries spend most of their time trying to avoid the super tax square, Schwartz’s foundation makes his growing portfolio all the more rewarding.
THIS ARTICLE APPEARED ORIGINALLY IN THE APRIL 2019 EDITION OF ICON MAGAZINE.