MIKE LEVEN FINDS NEW PURPOSE

Mike Leven is leaving lodging after nearly 50 years to become a philanthropist. He has joined the Marcus Foundation, an Atlanta charity, as vice chairman. Established by Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus, the foundation funds institutions as disparate as the Centers for Disease Control, the Marcus Institute (an Atlanta facility for children with disabilities) and the Georgia Aquarium. Leven also is vice chairman of the Aquarium board.

Leven also has become chairman of USFS, relinquishing his titles of president and CEO. Whether that dual post will be filled remains to be seen; for now, Roy Flora, COO, and Jon Leven, EVP of marketing, will split administrative duties, reporting to Senior VP Jim Abrahamson at Hyatt headquarters in Chicago.

Leven's new USFS position is largely ceremonial. “Essentially, I'm sort of out to stud,” jokes Leven, who has already started his new job.

Marcus wanted an administrator with business experience; Leven wanted a change. His negotiation with Hyatt in phasing out of his hotel duties was amicable, he says; Doug Geoga, former president of Global Hyatt, gave the move his blessing.

The Marcus Foundation “runs the gamut from entrepreneurship to educating inner-city kids to Israel support to children and medical research,” Leven says. “It's a wide variety, and they needed someone of business orientation who could manage people. It's not really strange to me because I was a trustee for four years, but it's the foundation world.”

As for USFS, it's in good shape, like the rest of the industry. “It was a good time for me to move on,” Leven says. “It's not in crisis, and we've got good, solid people. It's good to have a fresh pair of eyes after 10 years. I've never been in a job more than five years.”

Although his contract with USFS ran until fall 2007, Leven took the new job because he badly wanted to and because Bernard Marcus couldn't wait. “I wish I could have done this my whole life,” he says. “It's a fabulous opportunity. I don't have enough personal wealth to run my own foundation, and to be able to help someone of this stature do it is the next best thing.”

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