Hospitality Consulting Entrepreneur Michelle Russo to Speak at the School of Hotel Administration

Mar 01, 2011

Contact:  Jane Henion, 607.255.9780,

Michelle Russo has more than 20 years of practical, hands-on experience in the hospitality industry, and, in 2003, she founded Hotel Asset Value Enhancement (hotelAVE), one of the nation's leading hotel real estate advisory firms. Next Tuesday, March 8, 2011, Russo will be the featured speaker in the Conversations with Entrepreneurs series presented by the Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship at Cornell University. She will speak about her experiences as an entrepreneur from 4:15 to 5:30 p.m. in 198 Statler Hall and will dine with selected students after the event. She will then be available to meet with students, staff, and faculty the following day by appointment.

Specializing in asset management and consulting services for the hospitality industry, hotelAVE's portfolio has grown to $2.5B and over 30 hotels under management with 16 professionals and offices in Providence, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. hotelAVE has projects all over the United States as well as in French Polynesia, Canada, and the Caribbean. They provide acquisition underwriting and due diligence, management and franchise selection, and development/repositioning analysis. hotelAVE's clients primarily comprise institutional investors, private pension funds, insurance companies, investment banks, money center banks, and special servicers. Russo also founded StepStone Hospitality, hotelAVE's sister property management company at the request of her clients. StepStone is property manager of six hotels, primarily located on the east coast. hotelAVE is also partnering with its clients to acquire hotels, most recently completing the acquisition of the Northland Inn in North Minneapolis in 4Q10.

Before Russo became president of hotelAVE, she managed a $500 million portfolio for John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance, where she improved the profitability of the portfolio and achieved 20 percent cash-on-cash ROIs. Prior to her asset management experience, Russo spent ten years conducting real estate appraisals and feasibility studies for hotels throughout the United States and garnered capital markets experience while on Wall Street. She served as president of the Hospitality Asset Managers Association (HAMA) for two terms and as a board member for five years, and she co-authored a chapter in the American Hotel & Lodging Association book Hotel Asset Management. Russo is a graduate of the School of Hotel Administration, where she is a frequent guest lecturer.

The Conversations with Entrepreneurs series is sponsored by Hotelie Entrepreneurs, Cornell Hospitality Advisors, and eClips.