Glenaeon Rudolf Steiner School


George Nicholas (1989)

George Nicholas is the newly appointed Global Head of the Hotel Division for Savills in London.

George Nicholas (1989) is the newly appointed Global Head of the Hotel Division for Savills in London, having spent a career in hotel management and hotel acquisitions around the world. He even managed a castle for a real-life prince and princess!

George graduated from Glenaeon in 1989, and to this day, remembers the long walk up the driveway at the end of a hot summer’s day.

What have you been doing since you left Glenaeon?
After I did my HSC in 1989 at Glenaeon I left Australia and studied at Les Roches hotel management school in Switzerland for three years, where I graduated with a Diploma in Hotel Administration. I then moved to Prague at the end of 1992 where I worked for Prince and Princess Lobkowicz and managed their castle just outside Prague. I was in Prague until mid 1995 when I applied to Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration (in upstate New York, USA) and I started there in September 1995.

I wanted to get out of daily hospitality operations so I majored in real estate and finance within the lodging and commercial real estate industries so I could have more 9-5 hours. I graduated with a BSc in Dec 1997 and started working for a hotel brokerage firm in California in early 1998. We acted as real estate agents and advisors for hotels across the USA. Ironically, I don't think I've ever worked harder!

In late 1999 after almost a decade away from Australia I moved back to Sydney and took a job at Jones Lang LaSalle (a NYSE listed company) in their global hotel real estate division. I was poached a few times by various hotel real estate advisory companies and I worked across Australia, New Zealand, Pacific and Asia on numerous hotel and gaming mergers and acquisitions until 2011.

It was in early 2000 in Sydney that I met Emma Cowie who ultimately became my wife and we had our children, Leila now 7 and William 6, (who was born one week before my father Michael sadly passed away).

In 2011 my previous firm Jones Lang LaSalle offered me a job heading up hotel mergers and acquisitions in Northern Europe, based in London, and I moved the family to the UK. It has been a fascinating move and I have been responsible for some of Europe's largest hotel and real estate transactions, while working with sheikhs and reclusive billionaires. I even negotiated 1:1 against Donald Trump over a few months to sell him and his children Turnberry Golf Resort in Scotland on behalf of the government of Dubai.

Recently I have been asked by London Stock Exchange-listed Savills (SVS) the real estate firm, to head up their hotel real estate team globally, so I will start that in August of 2015. I will now be responsible for pulling their business together across the US, Asia and Europe under one umbrella and growing the platform.

Emma and I are currently planning to build a new house on the outskirts of London in Buckinghamshire where the kids are at school. Leila and William have cute English accents but we made a good effort to recharge their Aussie accents during a recent trip back home.

How did Glenaeon influence your career choice? 

Interestingly, Glenaeon still subtly influences my career choice and inspiration. Initially, the exposure to European languages and having briefly attended Steiner schools in the UK and Germany gave me confidence to travel and live abroad. This stimulated me to find tertiary education overseas and it was my family who inspired me to work in the hospitality field. I always saw hospitality as the business of business, a microcosm of marketing, finance, human resources and service. Steiner's global success and penetration showed another leading example of how a concept and product based in solid principles could be implemented and adopted globally.

Favourite Glenaeon memories? 

It's hard not to go past Muck-up Day 1989 but only perhaps because that is the freshest in my mind. I have fond memories from Miss Bain's kindergarten, David Hatton's childhood stories, the vegetable gardens in class 2 and 3, playing with Star Wars figurines on the little oval, The Pit and Bamboo Patch, bushwalking to the waterfall and later Gill William-Smith's art class.

But mostly, I just loved the last week of class at the end of the year when we moved up a class room, when it generally coincided with the sweltering heat of summer, cicada song, frozen drink bottles for play lunch and lunch, summer uniforms, and throwing paper planes at the ceiling fans, and finally the long walk up the driveway through the gates after the 3:25 bell.

Plans for 2016 and beyond?

My main focus for the next few years is to raise a healthy family, enjoy the most of our life in Europe and to build our house and business. One day we plan to return to Australia and have our children attend high school in Sydney, but we remain open to the twists and turns of life and who knows what opportunities will arise in the years to come.
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