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Powell loves the glitzy LA life

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In the third in a series of Bermudians who have made their mark in business overseas,

Marina Mello interviews Jason Powell, vice-president of development of Raleigh Enterprises, a compay that owns the largest independent movie studio in the world and the Sunset Marquis Hotel in Los Angeles

He’s hung out with Ringo Starr, counts Cameron Diaz and Jimmy Kimmel as neighbours, and once bumped into Justin Timberlake while taking the trash out.

With a house in the Hollywood Hills, a place in Big Bear and a job overseeing development for a company that owns the largest independent movie studio in the world and the famous Sunset Marquis Hotel, Bermudian Jason Powell loves his LA lifestyle.

It’s a life he built, he said, by figuring out what he wanted and following his dreams. There was a lot of hard work and sacrifices along the way as well.

But Mr Powell, with the love and support of wife Sonya and daughters Ariana, 9, and Ella, 7, ultimately achieved what he wanted to.

A graduate of Warwick Academy and Pangbourne Naval College in the UK - Mr Powell left Bermuda as one of the youngest hotel general managers in the Bermuda/Caribbean region.

He worked as food and beverage manager for the former Southampton Princess, before becoming general manager for the now closed Ariel Sands, where he oversaw the revamp of the resort for owners - movie star Michael Douglas and family, the Dills.

Mr Powell personally represented Mr Douglas’s interest in the redevelopment.

“We had a very successful launch and then my wife, Sonya, was accepted to Columbia in New York for her Masters,” Mr Powell said.

“So I was off to Greenwich, Connecticut to manage the high-end Indian Harbor Yacht Club. I oversaw the remodel of the Club and after a year I had had enough of the cold winters so Sonya and I decided to move to LA. I needed palm trees and she was from Seattle so it was a happy medium.”

Mr Powell first landed a job as general manager and vice-president of development for KOR Hotel Group, overseeing the opening of the flagship hotel, the Avalon in Beverly Hills.

After moving to Raleigh Enterprises as vice-president of development, he oversaw a $35 million expansion of the Sunset Marquis Hotel and Villas. Considered the music industry’s leading hotel, many a rock legend has stayed at the fashionable West Hollywood hotel, which boasts its own recording studio.

Mr Powell said the part of his job he likes best is when he can be at his “most creative in visualising and seeing a project through”.

He said it’s hard to comment on the problems in Bermuda’s tourism industry, having been abroad for so long, but he said: “I do know that the greatest challenge when I was there was attracting good Bermudians into the hotel business. It is extremely important to attract the best of the best to run the industry. Also, one needs to get out and see what the rest of the world is doing so you can figure out a way to compete and win.”

After buying and selling a number of properties, the couple now have their dream home in the Hollywood Hills, which they designed and built, and which has been used for movie locations and photo shoots.

Mr Powell answered the following questions for us about his road to success abroad.

What was your education and work background before taking the positions with the Princess and Ariel Sands?I went to St George’s Prep, Warwick Academy, Pangbourne Naval College in Berkshire, England , then four years of working at different wineries in Europe including Louis Roederer in Reims, France.

What did you first do after moving to Los Angeles?

Arriving in LA, I was plunged into overseeing the opening of two hotels in Beverly Hills - the Avalon and Maison 140, for the KOR group.

The hotels were very high profile with renowned designer Kelly Weastler designing her first hotels with me.

The most significant moment was the grand opening party to launch the Avalon which was hosted by In Style Magazine and had a huge line up of celebrities.

How did you arrive at Raleigh Enterprises as vice-president of development?This is a large company based in LA, owning Raleigh Studios, Hollywood Rentals - the largest light and grip company in the world, the Sunset Marquis Hotel in West Hollywood, File Keepers - a paper management company, and many real estate holdings. I oversee all new business and any development requirements the company requires across all the companies.

This has included a $35 million addition to the Sunset Marquis Hotel, a movie studio in Budapest, and a number of other projects.

I am also the president of Rosenthal, the Malibu Estate vineyards, which Raleigh owns.

I oversee wine making, the blending of the different wines and the sales and marketing. Tune in this season to the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and see me host a wine tasting for 25 wives!

What do you love/not love about LA and what do you miss about Bermuda?

I love the weather in LA. The temperature is always comfortable and the humidity low. The city has so many different areas, from being at the beach, to snow boarding only two hours away.

We have a home in Big Bear, which is a winter resort where both my daughters are on the ski team and train every weekend during the winter.

The down side to LA is the traffic, it is horrible!

What I miss most about Bermuda is the beaches, the friendly people - especially all the people I have worked with in the hotel business there.

Bermudian in Hollywood: Former Ariel Sands general manager Jason Powell is now vice-president of development for Raleigh Enterprises, owner of the Sunset Marquis Hotel and a major Hollywood movie studio
Happy family: Jason Powell, pictured with wife Sonya and daughters Ariana and Ella
Neighbour: Cameron Diaz

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Published September 06, 2011 at 10:00 am (Updated September 06, 2011 at 10:01 am)

Powell loves the glitzy LA life

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