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A Mini Bio of Barry Sternlicht: The Most Storied Lodging Executive of All Time


Jordan Hollander in Operations

Last updated January 26, 2022

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Barry Sternlicht was born November 27, 1960 in New York City and co-founded Starwood Hotels and Resorts. He is the current chairman and CEO of Starwood Capital Group, which he co-founded with Bob Faith, the CEO of Greystar Real Estate Partners.

Sternlicht grew up in Stamford, Connecticut and spent his early career working on Wall Street after graduating from Brown University. After receiving an MBA from Harvard Business School, he made a career switch and got a job at a real estate investment company in Chicago, but was laid off due to the recession in the early 1990s.

He then teamed up with Bob Faith to start Starwood Capital Group in 1991, an investment firm specializing in apartment buildings and other real estate assets that banks liquidated during the financial crisis. The firm grew quickly; in 1994 it acquired Westin Hotels and Resorts, a $561 million transaction made in partnership with Goldman Sachs.The next year, Starwood Capital Group purchased Hotel Investors Trust, a struggling REIT. Over the subsequent years, Starwood Capital also acquired many shopping centers and purchased shares of other hospitality and real estate companies, including a 30% stake in YOTEL.

In 1997 Starwood Capital acquired the Westin brand, and together with the hotels in the Hotel Investors Trust portfolio, Starwood Hotels and Resorts was born. Just a month later, Starwood acquired ITT Corporation, which brought the Sheraton brand into Starwood’s portfolio. By this time, Starwood’s portfolio included over 650 properties. Sternlicht then launched the W Hotels brand, which brought a fresh take on the luxury hotel concept. W is considered to be the first “lifestyle” hotel brand.

Starwood Hotels and Resorts continued to grow throughout the early 2000s; the company’s growth was fueled by new brands like Aloft and Element, new construction, and acquisition of existing brands like Le Meridien and Design Hotels. In September 2016 Marriott International purchased Starwood Hotels and Resorts in a historic $13 billion deal, creating the world’s largest hotel company with 30 brands and over 5700 hotels at the time.

Though he’s no longer involved with the Starwood Hotels and Resorts brands, Sternlicht is still the chairman and CEO of Starwood Capital Group, which manages asset values worth around $60 billion. Sternlicht has also built a sizable fortune himself; his net worth is estimated to be around $3 billion.  Sternlicht has been a member of the board of directors for beauty titan Estée Lauder companies since 2004 and is argued by many to be America's best lodging CEO of all time for his time as CEO of Starwood Hotels.  His career in commercial real estate didn't stop there and he's been an incredibly active commercial property executive since leaving Starwood through his private equity firm Starwood Capital.

Most recently the billionaire purchased storied crystal brand Baccarat  and used the brand as a platform to launch a new luxury hotel brand in New York City. Sternlicht supports a variety of philanthropic causes via the Barry S, Sternlicht Foundation, including research toward a cure for juvenile diabetes. He is a member of the Interior Design Magazine Hall of Fame and a recipient of many awards such as the Cornell Icon of the Industry Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Travel Marketing Executives.


Want to learn more about hotel industry leaders? Check out Titans of the Hotel Industry which includes an overview of leaders like Conrad Hilton (Hilton), Jay Pritzker (Hyatt), J. Willard Marriott (Marriott), Isadore Sharp (Four Seasons), Rich Barton and Brian Chesky (Airbnb)