Michelle Russo ’87 has more than 25 years of practical, hands-on experience with hotels, restaurants, resorts, convention centers, real estate, and finance. She has worked on thousands of hotel assets across the United States and, in 2003, founded Hotel Asset Value Enhancement. While Russo oversees the practice, she is very involved in strategic asset positioning, management contract negotiations, and interacting with senior-level brand and management executives on behalf of the portfolio.
Prior to founding hotelAVE, Russo was a lodging and leisure analyst for Deutsche Banc Alex Brown where she also garnered capital markets experience. Her experience on Wall Street forced her to be very forward focused. Russo also managed a $500 million portfolio for John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company where she improved the portfolio and achieved 20% cash-on-cash returns. She is well-known for initiating the legal action taken in the 2660 Woodley Road case in which Hancock was originally awarded $52 million. In addition, Russo was responsible for changing the property’s management and overseeing a $100 million repositioning renovation of the 1,500-room convention hotel.
Russo is a regular guest lecturer at Cornell University and has appeared on CNBC and CNN to provide commentary on the hospitality and leisure industry. She has also been invited as a speaker at numerous industry conferences such as NYU, ALIS, ULI, Boston University, Distressed Hotel Summit, and Hunter Hotel Conference.
Russo serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board for Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration (SHA). She is also a member of ULI’s Hotel Council, Marriott’s Distribution Strategy Advisory Committee, the AHLA’s Financial Management Committee, Morgans Board of Directors, and the Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship Advisory Board at Cornell University.