General Manager and Vice President Spa & Wellness
Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 1991
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Director of Rooms, Regent London (formerly a Four Seasons)
- Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village, California; Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas; Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire; Four Seasons Hotel Dublin (formerly a Four Seasons hotel); Four Seasons Hotel Sydney; Four Seasons Hotel Toronto; Four Seasons Hotel London; Regent Hotel London (formerly a Four Seasons Hotel); Disney International Hotels, Florida and Paris
- Stratford-upon-Avon, England
- Solent University, Southampton; Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
- English, French
Through more than two decades in management with Four Seasons, Michael Newcombe had pretty much seen it all. Then he got appointed to lead Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills. “I’d certainly never seen a guest list like this one before,” he recalls with a laugh of the bright lights and A-list clientele – primarily, though not entirely, international entertainment and business elite – who just keep coming back for more. “They call this place ‘Hollywood’s Living Room,’ and it really is.”
As General Manager, Newcombe’s focus is on making those A-listers feel right at home, providing “a bubble of security” where they can let down their hair and go about their lives free from public eyes and pesky concerns. Attention to detail is perhaps the most important amenity the team provides – significant in an increasingly competitive market. “The Hotel has built its reputation on its ability to read guest expectations and exceed them,” he explains. “We are very good at customising an experience that gets every little thing right while opening doors for guests to enjoy more.”
For instance, under Newcombe the Hotel has become a wellness hotspot in a healthy city. Drawing on personal passion for health and fitness, not long after his arrival he tapped insiders to consider ways to broaden the property’s wellness appeal. Beyond plugging the Hotel into Global Wellness Day, he led transformation of the decommissioned rooftop helicopter pad into space for Helipad Yoga, with celebrity instructors leading groups before panoramic views from the Hollywood sign to the avenues of Beverly Hills. Also at Newcombe’s encouragement, the Hotel Spa has launched partnerships with celebrity health practitioners to offer select wellness practices that guests can’t get elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Newcombe has taken on an added role as Chair of Four Seasons Global Spa and Wellness Task Force, with a mission to provide a dynamic global strategy to support the development and success of the company’s 100 spas around the world. The role sees him developing new wellness initiatives “by working in harmony with specialists in the field” while creating a business platform and marketing strategy that allows guests “to understand and participate in the breadth and depth of our wellness offerings.”
Newcombe is well suited for the role, having previously managed Four Seasons Westlake Village, where he led the Spa to become one of the company’s most successful. He also spent three years as head of the Spas for the Americas for Four Seasons. “The development of the wellness industry has been so dynamic; it’s as bold and diverse as any industry out there now,” he says, recalling Four Seasons original spa in Toronto as comparatively bare bones at its opening in the 1990s. “Now the Toronto Spa is 30,000 square feet (2,800 square metres) and Four Seasons is the largest luxury spa operator in the world.”
An enthusiastic foodie as well, Newcombe recently created a new Vinoteca wine bar at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles, adjacent to the Hotel’s signature dining experience, Culina, Modern Italian, to provide a more casual Italian café feel with a vibrant ambiance and fine wines from Italy and California.
Newcombe is also intent upon advancing guest room technologies and making the Hotel registration process even more convenient by relocating it from the front desk to the porte-cochère. He envisions a day when Four Seasons guests – in Los Angeles and everywhere else – will be able to access their room keys remotely before they’ve even left home. “That will come,” he says. “The touch point of a hotel used to be the lobby, but technology is moving it forward. For management, the key is anticipating guest needs and positioning resources where they’re needed.”
As a manager, Newcombe is particularly keen on the proximity between himself and the Hotel team. As he once expounded to a writer from the Harvard Business Review, he was inspired by Four Seasons founder Isadore Sharp to meet informally with each employee group at the Hotel on a monthly basis. “No agenda. No speeches. Just conversation,” the article explained. “[Newcombe] listens to his employees and trusts they have something real to say. In turn, they trust him enough to say what’s on their mind.”
Newcombe arrived in LA from Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village, where during four years as General Manager he emphasised increasing revenues from the meetings market. It didn’t hurt that he was (and remains) on the board of the local chapter of the British American Business Council. Indeed, he believes he was considered for his current position because of the bang up job he did drawing local business to Westlake Village.
Born and raised in the English Cotswolds, Newcombe excelled at sports from a young age, particularly sailing, which he still enjoys at Newport Beach. Meanwhile, he travelled frequently with his father, an executive at a British automotive company. Though initially intent on a medical career, Newcombe was drawn to hospitality by a film adaptation of Arthur Hailey’s Hotel, which he saw when he was 12. “I became fascinated by the idea of a business operating 24/7 and never knowing what the next day will bring.”
That fascination has led Newcombe to Four Seasons assignments in the UK, Australia and North America, including turns as GM in Hampshire and Dallas. He really feels at home in the Golden State, he says. “I am absolutely crazy about the lifestyle. Everything is done with such energy here: recreation, socialising, eating, wine, everything.”