Ultimate CEO Jim Allen of Seminole Gaming and Hard Rock on keeping innovation alive (Video)
Editor’s Note: This is the last in a weekly series highlighting the Business Journal’s 2019 South Florida Ultimate CEO Awards honorees. The award recognizes the area’s top CEOs, highlighting the breadth of talent and leadership across our unified tri-county region. We’ll feature at least one of these chief executives weekly as a lead-up to the Sept. 26 awards program at The Ritz Carlton, Fort Lauderdale.
CEO, Seminole Gaming; Chairman and CEO, Hard Rock International
Residence: Fort Lauderdale
Jim Allen was 13 when he began working in the hospitality business. To help the family make ends meet, he was a busser and server at a restaurant down the street from the family home.
Today, from a Hollywood office bedecked in the same music and sports memorabilia found in his restaurants worldwide, Allen heads two leading hospitality and casino brands – and the constant innovation that keeps the company front of mind. He oversees all gaming, hospitality and entertainment operations at Seminole Gaming and Hard Rock International.
His previous executive posts – with the Trump Organization, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Hemmeter Companies, Park Place Entertainment, Sol Kerzner’s Sun International Resorts and even a position on the New Jersey Casino Control Commission Task Force on Gaming Regulation – have helped Allen lead both organizations. Since his 2001 arrival at the Seminole Tribe of Florida, he has overseen the 2007 acquisition of Hard Rock International and negotiated the tribe’s lucrative gaming compact with the state and U.S. Department of the Interior.
He’s Increased the tribe’s hospitality holdings to 185 cafes from 125, to 27 hotels from nine, to 12 casinos from four, and 74 countries from 46.
Allen’s most recent accomplishment is the $2.4 billion expansions of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa and Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, where a 638-room, guitar-shaped hotel tower will open next month, down the turnpike from Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins and Miami Hurricanes.
Any career opportunity you ever let get away? I certainly should’ve made a few deals, maybe should have bought a hotel in Miami about eight or nine years ago. The real estate prices have obviously exceeded the pre-recession period.
Professionally, what drives you? We’re seven days a week in our business. So it’s about the excitement of creating things and then obviously seeing them come to fruition.
How do you keep innovation and curiosity alive in your organization? You have to surround yourself with creative people from all walks of life and all age groups.
Sell me: Why would I want to work for Jim Allen? Honesty and integrity. We have one core value that’s different than “Love all, serve all,” which started with Hard Rock back in 1971. We’re looking for people who have honesty and integrity and want to work.
As a CEO, what’s your greatest strength – and greatest weakness? My greatest weakness is I put too many appointments on the daily schedule. I think my strength is the ability to not be afraid to take a chance.
What’s been your greatest professional or personal accomplishment? I don’t look at one single, specific item. But the guitar tower that we’ve created will probably be somewhat legendary. It’s more about going from a successful business into something that’s truly global and one of the most successful businesses in the world.
What do you appreciate most about the South Florida business climate? As far as business, it’s a great place to operate. It’s clearly a state that has been pro-business. There’s a great workforce, with 21 million people in the state, and overall it’s a beautiful place to live.