New blood at the Hermitage Club
"In the end, it will be better because there's new ideas, new blood, new energy at the club," said Meredith Dennes, who was hired for the newly created position of senior director of marketing, advertising and public relations. "But it may take some time," she added
Dennes previously co-founded Project Eve LLC, which is described as "a leading women's lifestyle media company with a digital readership in excess of 12 million monthly unique visitors and over 1 million social media followers." She has worked as a digital consultant and social media/marketing strategist with several Fortune 500 companies, according to a press release. She also has a background in investment banking.
Robert Balewicz was just hired as the managing director of Hermitage Club Realty. Mostly he will be focused on private residence membership sales at the Hotel Hermitage, which is part of the construction plan for the company. For 35 years, he worked with Weichert Realty, Merrill Lynch Realty and Prudential Realty.
Kenneth Davis is the club's new chief legal officer. He has more than 20 years of legal experience, working with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Morrison & Foerster, and as a member of the board of the Stratton Mountain Ski and Board Club.
And John Santaniello will serve as the new managing director of hospitality.
"In preparation for the future growth of the Hermitage Club, I recognize the importance of the Deerfield Valley community and the valuable relationships required to help us all succeed," Santaniello said. "With those guiding principles in mind, I feel fortunate to lead and inspire our associates to achieve goals that exceed all expectations."
Santaniello has 25 years of industry experience and spent 20 of those years with The Ritz-Carlton in Vail, Colo., according to the press release. His jobs have been based in the United States and abroad. Previously, he was the managing director of all operations at Mount Washington Resort and the Bretton Woods Ski Area in New Hampshire. At the Hermitage, he will oversee lodging, restaurants, concierge, spa, daycare, special events, programming, valet, transportation and member services.
"As we now complete our first six years of operation this October, we believe that the balance of this first decade will accelerate with growth as the Hermitage Club is the only private club like this," said Jim Barnes, company founder and president. "We believe John Santaniello will enable us to deliver a high quality member experience while also contributing to our bottom line. Further, his experience in the private residence membership model will help us shape and deliver a superior outcome in our Hotel Hermitage Development."
Barnes said he believes the second part of the decade will "usher in a period of increased ownership of the club by its members growing from present day 3 percent to a projected 51 percent majority interest."
"The members' debt conversion and additional capital commitment speak to this increased support," he added.
Dennes said her primary objective will be to "really develop the brand as a luxury brand" and redesign the website. Also, she plans on making changes to internal and external communications. She's working on a "consistent brand message."
While other resorts are providing access to as many mountains with season pass sales, Dennes wants to focus on the skier experience. That's where she'll be directing advertising efforts.
Dennes said she thinks Barnes is heading in the right direction.
"I think there were some inefficiencies that he wanted to fix and put the right people in the right places sort to speak," she said. "I think that there's always ways that you can improve operations and sales and marketing and real estate sales. And I think what he wanted to do was put people in that could handle the strategic growth objectives of the company and maximize the performance and build that long-term value for membership."
All the new hires have started and several employees have left, according to Dennes.
Reach staff writer Chris Mays
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