Exclusive: Loews chairman letter aims to reassure team

To reassure his team, Loews Hotels & Co. Chairman and CEO Jon Tisch sent a companywide letter to team members on March 26, explaining the state of affairs with the New York City-based company. His office shared the letter exclusively with HOTELS, and we want to share it to provide insight on how a major company and its high-profile leader is responding to the impact of the coronavirus.

Loews Hotels & Co Chairman and CEO Jon Tisch
Loews Hotels & Co Chairman and CEO Jon Tisch

March 26, 2020

Dear Team Members,

Hope this message finds you healthy and safe during these trying times.

In the past I have talked about how hotels, unlike most other businesses, are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. We never close. That was until COVID-19.

This is a very unsettling time – both physically and emotionally. We are concerned about our health and that of our family, friends and co-workers. We are uncertain of when this will end and what the future will look like. We are also uneasy because in hospitality what we do is take care of guests and we are virtually unable to do that now.

What can we do? How can we adapt?

First, I suggest resigning yourself to the new situation. We will have limited mobility and an absence from pastimes we’ve routinely enjoyed and that have served as an escape in our lives for some time. We must dig deep within ourselves and muster all the perseverance and grit we can. We must continue to live our values of being humble, caring and kind, and apply them to our new circumstances and to the “team members” with whom we are now at home with. Every day you are at Loews you make a contribution. Continue to try to feel purposeful.

Thankfully, we are not aware of many of our team members who have contracted the virus. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who are experiencing the virus themselves or who have family or friends with it. Some team members are in mandatory or self-quarantine and we are thinking of them as well. I am grateful we have very few cases, although it is safe to assume that there are other team members who have it, will get it, or have had it but were without symptoms.

From a business perspective, this is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. I vividly remember managing through the Great Recession as well as after the tragedy of September 11. The scale and impact of this on our team members and on our business is much vaster than either of those. Local restrictions combined with the nearly complete drop in business levels requires the temporary suspension of operations at many of our hotels. Some have already shut their doors and others will soon follow. The financial loss to continue to operate these hotels would be so severe as to cause even more damage to the company long-term. Individual properties will continue to cease operations until local restrictions and business demand allow for a resumption of activities.

While there is much uncertainty remaining on how long our lives and business will be disrupted and what the recovery will look like, we do know the economic hit to the company will be significant. That is why we are taking aggressive steps to manage controllable expenses. We have suspended non-essential travel, imposed a hiring freeze, suspended merit increases, limited capital projects to life safety needs, deferred marketing and advertising campaigns, among other actions. Painfully, the majority of our team members will be on a temporary leave of absence. At hotels that remain open we are limiting operations and managing expenses as well.

When Bob and Larry Tisch, along with their parents, Al and Saydie, began the hotel business in the 1940s, they too faced unknown challenges and didn’t have a playbook with all the answers. But what they had in spades was determination and integrity.

We too will see this through. One lesson from the virus is the realization of how connected we all are. While we find ourselves physically separated from each other, it is with a sense of community that we will meet these challenges and overcome them together. We will continue to care for each other, and when people start to travel again — and they will — we will do what we do best — welcome them like family.

Please continue to take care of yourselves and your loved ones.

Jon Tisch Chairman & CEO Loews Hotels & Co