The Churchill Centre’s Chairman receives CBE at Buckingham Palace for his lifetime of charitable work.
By Shia Kapos
CRAIN’S CHICAGO BUSINESS, 10 May 2012—Laurence Geller, CEO of Strategic Hotels & Resorts Inc., was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) last week in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
Prince Charles presented the honor, which recognizes Mr. Geller’s philanthropic work. He chairs the Churchill Centre, an organization that celebrates the life, lessons and relevance of Sir Winston Churchill.
Mr. Geller oversees the InterContinental and Fairmont hotels in Chicago, and has been giddy about the award since it was announced New Year’s Eve.
This wasn’t his first visit to the palace, he tells me.
Mr. Geller was there last year as part of a small delegation from the University of West London, where he is chancellor, a role in which he acts as a public face for the school. The university was receiving an award with several other universities, he says.
After that ceremony, there was a lunch where he sat at a table with Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth.
“She is gracious, polished and tends to lead the conversation having been well-briefed,” he told me in an email. “If one has the temerity to ask a direct question which requires a personal commentary opinion or something she would prefer not to discuss, then a smile in return and an answer so generic that it is not meaningful. Mostly it is simply a change of subject.
“I commented how beautiful Buckingham Palace looked and that, as I am in the luxury hotel business it made me green with envy! She asked had I been to the palace previously. I mentioned that I had indeed on several occasions some 40-plus years ago. When pressed I mentioned that I had been a part-time/extra banqueting waiter. She was somewhat amused by this and then commented with immaculate timing and a wonderful straight face that I perhaps might forgive her as she didn’t remember me!
“Her professionalism and timing were so well-done that I have to admit to being completely in awe at her command of the situation and her polished professionalism.”
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