The hotel tycoon and his mission—Gary Mendell

Part of the business owner to business owner series, ‘Flight paths’

Gary uses his entrepreneurial skills for good. Here's how.

Gary began life with an entrepreneurial father, who cast a big influence on him. So, it’s not surprising that after attending Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, Gary and his brother pooled their resources ($2,000) and opened an “office” in Gary’s basement, planning to invest in hotels.

A few years later, the brothers owned their first hotel, doing business as Hospitality Equity Investors. After spending two decades in hotels, Gary turned his attention to a societal problem in dire need of new thinking: treating addiction and eliminating its stigma.

Gary is one of the entrepreneurs who shares his story with us for our special report and video series, 'Flight Paths." Watch highlights from his interview.

A recipe for life: learn, earn, return

Career milestones

Gets hospitality business degree from Cornell

Launches career in restaurant business, then goes into hotel business with brother, Steve

Owns and manages 22 hospitality properties

Decides to get M.B.A. from Wharton, sells properties to Starwood

Becomes President of Starwood Lodging Trust

Acquires Westin hotel chain and ITT Corporation; retires at 42

Re-launches HEI in 2002 with brother

Grows company to 50 hotels with a $2 billion capitalization

Addiction hits close to home

Begins combatting the disease by creating a nonprofit organization, Shatterproof

Retires from HEI, yet retains ownership

Devotes energy to Shatterproof

There are a lot of wonderful opportunities in the last third of your life.

Gary fondly remembers building a business with his brother: the decision-making, the effort, the quest. Their company grew to own and manage 22 hotels before they sold 12 of their hotels to Starwood Hotels and Resorts. Gary then became President and a board member of Starwood Lodging Trust, and helped that company make some key acquisitions.

Not long after this, at age 42, Gary retired to spend more time with his children.

Retirement was short-lived, though. Soon, Gary and his brother were back in the hotel business, rebuilding HEI, which now has a capitalization close to $2 billion. Today, Gary retains an ownership stake, but is no longer involved in day-to-day management. His main focus is his non-profit organization.

Before, we were making a difference bringing good investment returns. Now, we’re making a difference helping people.

After experiencing the helplessness of seeing his son battle addiction and succumb to suicide, Gary developed a plan and marshaled resources for creating an organization that would reverse the course of the addiction crisis in America. Gary named it Shatterproof.

“We want to protect our children with a shatterproof coating, to prevent them from becoming addicted. We want to protect those who are addicted with a shatterproof program of treatment. And the name contains the word ‘proof’—Shatterproof only recommends protocols that are proven to work.”

The heartbreak of Gary’s loss has ushered in pathways toward healing for families across the nation.

If addiction is harming you or someone you love, resources are available at and

Learn more from the entrepreneurs of ‘Flight paths’

Connect with your UBS Financial Advisor

Tap into the global reach and resources of UBS before, during and after the sale of your business.