Ace Hotel’s connection to the Drake
September 14th, 2017
The president of Ace Hotel, the uber-hip boutique chain that’s opened an outpost in the West Loop, got his start as an elevator operator at the Drake Hotel.
“I was 16. It was the perfect job. Elevators didn’t have buttons then. It was all like the Grand Budapest Hotel,” said Brad Wilson.
His job would be replaced months later by elevators that operated with buttons. Wilson was then moved to the front desk, where he would take down messages and deliver them to guests. He’s also make copies of room keys. “They’re all jobs that are obsolete now,” he notes.
His father is Paul Wilson, who chaired the board of Arthur Anderson during the firm’s heyday and also served as treasurer of the Lyric Opera. His mom was the late Phyllis Wilson, a supporter of Hubbard Street Dance company and Chicago City Ballet. She also was a caterer, and her son credits her for his love of the hospitality.
“I remember growing up and spending weekends helping her bake and packing boxes for big events,” he said.
Wilson has since moved to New York, where he heads Ace Hotel. The company was founded by the late Alex Calderwood. After a drug-related death in 2013, Calderwood’s father sued Wilson for allegedly conspiring to swindle him out of his stake in the company.
Wilson declined to talk about the legal battle but has previously called the claims “patently false.” The case is ongoing.
The drama hasn’t hurt the hotel, which draws high-profile guests, including actress Olivia Munn and comedian Aziz Ansari.