For Teague Hunter, president and CEO of Hunter Hotel Advisors, buying and selling hotels is a family tradition. He shared that lifetime of experience with Asian Hospitality in the second installment of our Leadership Series interviews with top voices in the industry.
Hunter leads the Atlanta-based hotel brokerage founded in 1978 by his father Bob Hunter with his brother Lee Hunter as chief operating officer. Last year, Hunter had its most successful year to date after closing nearly $2.5 billion in sales. In March it will host its 35th Hunter Hotel Conference, which has rebounded to full attendance three years after the COVID-19 pandemic. Teague Hunter also is the host of Teague Talks, a twice weekly series of podcasts offering advice and interviews with other industry heads.
In his interview with Asian Hospitality, Hunter discussed his early days in the industry, current trends in the hotel market and the future of his company and its namesake conference. The video of the full interview is now available on our website, and the following includes excerpts from the interview with additional information.
Rise up early in the morning
Hunter said his first hotel job was as a bellhop in the morning shift at the old Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza Powers Ferry in Marietta, Georgia. It was quiet, but instructive.
“I ran around and helped everybody with everything and learned the business,” he said.
His experience in hospitality, however, began at a much earlier age. He was 5 years old when Bob Hunter started his business. Teague Hunter recalled stories of childhood trips to the beach, during which he would tour hotels with his father along the way. After graduating college, Hunter worked as a financial advisor for Merrill Lynch and held a position with IBM before he realized that was not what he wanted to do with his life.
In 1998 he joined Hunter Hotel Advisors.
“I got started I did it the old fashioned way, I joined my father’s business,” Teague Hunter said.
When Bob Hunter started the business, Teague Hunter said, there were no computers, no internet and barely fax machines.
“AAHOA was just getting started. I mean, that was the beginning of the hotel industry,” he said. “Our roots are really in the beginning of the industry.”
Eventually, Bob Hunter would parlay that long history and knowledge into the endeavor that has made the company a national icon in the hospitality industry: The Hunter Hotel Conference. It began with the patriarch of the Hunter family’s search for equanimity.
Knowledge for the people
Teague Hunter said his father was inspired by something that happened during a conference in New York. At the end of a panel, the presenter said something about not financing deals for less than $25 million.
“At that time, $25 million was a lot of money, probably $100 million today,” Teague Hunter said. “And then in the furious fashion for which Bob Hunter is known, he said there’s an industry of people below $25 million $100 million that needs this information more than this Wall Street people who have access to all the data.”
Bob Hunter began asking around to see who would support his “crazy idea” of a conference for everyone.
“Everyone he asked and everywhere he turned, they said yes,” Teague Hunter said. “He said he thought he’d run into a roadblock and someone would say no, but everyone said yes, if you’ll do it, we’ll back you.”
The first year, 50 people came, he said, then 100 the next year and so on. This year, Teague Hunter said, 1,800 people are expected to attend.
“I think it’s an industry staple, based on what we hear from our attendees,” he said.
The conference was missed when the pandemic forced its cancellation in 2020. It came back the next year, though and Lee Hunter said at the time that he was pleased with the attendance despite the necessary precautions, such as mandatory testing and masks.
“I think everybody wants to be here,” Lee Hunter said. “Everybody wants to get out and be at the conference, be in person, see their friends, see their colleagues. They may or may not have deals to work on but they want to see each other, they want to get out they want to travel.”
There is some benefit for Hunter Hotel Advisors from hosting the event, Teague Hunter said.
“It gives us a presence, it makes us thought leaders in the industry, keeps our name out there, adds to relationships, we get in any door,” Hunter said. “It is funny sometimes people are like, oh Hunter like the Hunter Conference. Yeah, we also sell some hotels.”
Growing, growing, gone
The key to success for Hunter Hotel Advisor, Hunter said, has been developing honesty and trust with its clientele. That’s the most important thing a broker can do he said.
“We’re here for long term relationships. We work really hard, we’re really smart at problem solving,” Hunter said. “We have great relationships out there, very deep ones that we have cultivated over all these years. That’s what matters. I think that’s why people keep coming back. One of my sayings internally is, if we can’t do a business on a handshake, I probably don’t want to do the business.”
Teague Hunter said the future is bright for the company.
“We will continue to grow, we will grow within the brokerage, we will add more people more offices, we will add more work verticals,” he said. “We will grow, we just will, we don’t have a choice. We have lots of people that want to come work with us, or clients or partners. So, we will grow, but I have this feeling it’s growing our team, but it’s sort of growing the next generation of hoteliers. I think that’s kind of the essence behind the Teague Talks that we do as well, putting ourselves out there and educating everyone for the next generation.”