The gig: Steve Choe, 34, is general manager of the InterContinental Los Angeles Century City, a luxury hotel with 361 rooms, including 151 suites. The jewel of the hotel is the Royal Suite, which has 3,300 square feet of space and a view that stretches from the Pacific Ocean to the Hollywood sign.
He was promoted to the top spot at the swanky 14-story hotel two years ago, making him one of the youngest general managers in the chain of more than 180 hotels worldwide.
Party crasher: Choe graduated from Beverly Hills High School, a campus he can see from the hotel's rooftop pool. As a teenager, he attended several parties in rented suites at the hotel. That experience now comes in handy when the hotel hosts a bar mitzvah or sweet 16 party and a few teenage guests decide to sneak away and explore the property.
"I always tell the security staff, 'I know all the hiding spots so go check these areas out,'" Choe said. "They ask 'How do you know?' It's because these were some of the favorite places I always went to."
The family business: Choe grew up in Monterey, where his parents owned a bed-and-breakfast inn and later a small hotel. "The hotel-motel life was a regular part of my life," he said. The family moved to Los Angeles in 1993. He did not plan to stay in the hotel business, but Choe became hooked on helping guests sort out routine problems when he started working at the front desk of the Long Beach Marriott while studying at Cal State Long Beach. "I really enjoyed seeing people walk away happy," he said.
A surprise promotion: At the InterContinental hotel, Choe was the head of operations when the hotel's general manager left for another post. The vacancy prompted the hotel owner, Sumitomo Realty & Development Co. in Tokyo, to put the young manager in charge on a interim basis. When he was named the full-time general manager in June, 2011, even Choe thought he might be too young for the post. "I felt like I could do it, but I could use another five years of good experience," he said.
Choe credits the president of Sumitomo Realty & Development, Mari Miyoshi, for endorsing him, saying she wanted Choe to help reach out to guests from the millennial generation as well as baby boomers.
What is special about the hotel: The InterContinental is known for its ornate flower arrangements in the lobby, the jaw-dropping views from every room and the free car service that takes guests shopping on Rodeo Drive, known as the "Pretty Woman" treatment.
His management style: Choe, who is married with two children, said he surrounds himself with smart people and tries to delegate responsibilities for key jobs. But Choe said he does not sugar-coat the critiques or compliments he offers his staff.
"I've always felt that being very direct and honest about where someone stands or how they look at things is very important," he said.
Going the extra mile: Much of his time is spent in airplanes, flying across the country and around the world to persuade potential clients to book rooms or conferences at the hotel. Choe said he will even drive to Los Angeles International Airport himself to pick up an important guest.
Too young to lead? As general manager, Choe often finds himself giving directions to employees who are much older and have more experience than he does. He said he respects his elders but experience isn't everything.
"It frustrates me sometimes when someone says, 'I've been doing this for 20 years, therefore I know everything,'" he said. "It doesn't necessarily mean that, because the world is constantly changing and we have to adapt with the changes."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times