A discussion with the man behind the La Valencia deal

As the president and CEO of San Diego-based American Property Management Corp., La Jollan Michael Gallegos has built his company into one of the largest hotel businesses in the United States with more than $2.2 billion in assets. APMC has recently agreed to purchase the historic La Valencia hotel in La Jolla and the Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa in Rancho Santa Fe.

Gallegos proclaims himself proud to be an American and is quick to point out that only in the U.S. can a person start out with nothing and build something of significance.

Q: How did you get into the hotel business?

A: My mother was a controller of La Fonda, a four-star hotel on the plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She used to take me to work with her when I was 4 or 5 years old. Essentially I was a hotel brat. When I was 11, I approached the owner of the hotel and asked him for a job in the hotel. He refused repeatedly because he said that there were child labor laws and he could not put me on the payroll. Eventually, I figured out that there was another way for me to work at La Fonda and that was for tips only and not be on the payroll. That way there would be no violation of child labor laws.

Q: What could you possibly be qualified to do at 11 years old?

A: I convinced him to let me have a job as the parking lot attendant for tips only with the stipulation that I would not be parking cars because I was not licensed to drive and I couldn't see over the steering wheel. But I soon learned after getting that job as the parking lot attendant that the only way to make really good tips was to park cars. So after the guest would leave the keys with me, they would look at me very dubiously and I would explain to them that I was the assistant parking lot attendant and that the parking lot attendant was parking a car. I was just taking the keys and giving out claim checks. But when the guests would turn the corner to go into the hotel, that's when I would get behind the wheel and park the car myself.

Q: Did you have any other jobs within the hotel?

A: Eventually the owner was getting so many compliments from the guests that they promoted me to restaurant cashier and then front desk PBX operator. By the time I was 16, I was the front desk manager of a four-star hotel. I would do that at night after I got out of school and on weekends. By the time I was 17, I was the assistant general manager and still in high school. When I graduated at 18, I was managing that hotel and I've been the youngest general manager of a four-star hotel in the history of this country to this date.

Q: How did you get involved with American Property Management Corp.?



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