2014 Government Regulations & Business Summit
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When Gregory Vickowski was growing up, he sometimes heard his father use an expression that he took as career advice.
“I remember him saying to me, ‘Money makes the world go ’round,’ ” he recalled. “I saw that was very true. I’ve been a numbers guy forever. Nothing else has ever interested me the way finance does.”
For Vickowski, finding a goal early in life has certainly paid off. Today he’s chief financial officer of The Procaccianti Group/TPG Cos. The real estate company acquires, manages and renovates upscale, full-service hotels and is one of the county’s top five privately held hotel operators, affiliated with the industry’s major brands, including Hilton, Hyatt, Westin, Sheraton and Intercontinental. In addition the company owns and manages other commercial and residential properties.
The Cranston-based enterprise now owns or manages assets in 24 states, and has operations in most of the country’s top real estate markets, including New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago. The total value of assets owned by the company is more than $5 billion.
And while much of Rhode Island’s economy is still in a slump, The Procaccianti Group is thriving. From 2011 to 2013, the company saw revenue increase 9 percent, as it added roughly 1,000 employees, going from about 6,500 to about 7,500 (TPG takes being a privately held company seriously, and is reticent to share many exact figures).
“The hospitality industry is a good industry to be in here in Rhode Island,” Vickowski said. “It’s a major component of the economy … I’m fortunate to work for a great company that’s very growth oriented. It’s an exciting thing to be part of, and we’ve got a great team.”
Colleagues at The Procaccianti Group are quick to note that Vickowski’s efforts have been a major factor in the company’s success. “It has been, in no small part, through Greg’s tireless work habits and commitment to excellence that TPG has experienced historical growth and is recognized today as one of the elite real estate investment management firms in the United States,” said Ralph Izzi Jr., the company’s director for marketing and corporate communications.
Vickowski also has used his skills to help civic and charitable organizations in Rhode Island. “Through his leadership and support the company has been an exceptionally generous contributor to Hasbro Children’s Hospital and multiple local and national nonprofit organizations,” Izzi said.
Founded in 1964, the Procaccianti Group has been a player in Providence for almost five decades. In the years since Vickowski has come on-board, the second-generation firm has expanded across the country.
“When I started here back in 1988, it was more a Rhode Island firm with some small operations outside the state,” he said. “But we’ve always had an interest in top markets like New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C. Currently we own and operate a Hilton on Manhattan’s East Side, a Holiday Inn in Soho, and several hotels in other parts of the city. We’re doing some residential projects, too. In New York, we’re converting a hotel into an apartment building.”
During those years, Vickowski has negotiated hundreds of complex real estate transactions and hundreds of franchise license agreements with the hotel industry’s top brands; secured financing from some of the country’s most respected organizations; implemented many cost-saving, income-producing policies; and orchestrated the growth of the company’s portfolio.
“He has sourced direct deals and developed creative partnerships/ownership structures, has been involved in the review of hundreds of real estate investment deals, and has negotiated contracts with virtually every major hospitality brand,” Izzi said. “He has developed longstanding relationships with key industry brokers and leading lenders.”
Vickowski, a native of Wilbraham in central Massachusetts, is an alumnus of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where he received a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He also holds a master’s degree in business from the University of Rhode Island.
“I wound up in Rhode Island because I went to URI for my MBA,” the Cumberland resident said. “I came to love the state and decided to stay. Having the beaches and Narragansett Bay so close attracted me.”
His first job after college was with McGuire Group, the architectural engineering firm that worked on many of the projects that transformed the appearance of Providence during the Cianci era, including the river relocation project that resulted in the creation of the city’s river walk.
“Ray Bush, the CFO, was a wonderful mentor,” he recalled. “The opportunity to work for a CFO right out of school was very exciting, and it motivated me to aim for similar things.”
Vickowski has seen The Procaccianti Group help transform Providence, too. The company developed the tower addition to what was then the Westin Providence Hotel, and retained ownership to the Residences Providence, the condominium/apartment complex that occupies the upper floors of the 31-story tower when it sold the hotel to Omni Hotels & Resorts in October 2012. TPG also renovated the former Holiday Inn and transformed it into the Hilton. “At that time, the Convention Center Authority was looking to attract more events to the city, and I think that project helped,” he said.
Vickowski also has adapted to some major changes in the hospitality industry over the past 25 years. “When I started, there was nothing like Expedia or Hotels.com,” he said. “The Internet has certainly changed the way hotels and lodgings are sold. The technology we have today certainly shortens booking windows. It’s a more complicated industry than it was 15 years ago.”
This year will see more major projects, he predicted, including some in Providence. “We’re contemplating a variety of uses for sites downtown,” he said. “They’re in the early stages of development. We’ll be meeting with city officials once we’ve finalized plans.”