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Roy Winegardner

Former President & Chairman of Holiday Inns, Inc.

Roy WinegardnerRoy Winegardner decided to enter the hospitality industry through a twist of fate. While working as a mechanical contractor based in Springfield, Missouri in 1957, his private plane was grounded by bad weather in Huntsville, Alabama, and he noticed the lack of nearby motel rooms. Winegardner returned to Huntsville a week later, bought land and built a 75-room motel called the Towne House. “There was, at the same time, a 100-room Holiday Inn hotel operating just down the road. Even though Towne House did a good business, the Holiday Inn hotel did even better,” Winegardner said. That fact prompted him to go to Lexington, Kentucky, and build his first Holiday Inn property, bringing him full-time into the hotel business.

In 1958, Winegardner joined forces with John Q. Hammons to purchase 10 Holiday Inn franchises from founder Kemmons Wilson. The duo formed Winegardner & Hammons Incorporated (WHI) a hotel development company, in 1959 in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1969, Winegardner and Hammons merged 23 of their hotels with Holiday Inns, Inc., in Memphis, Tennessee. In the 1970s, Wilson asked Winegardner to come to Memphis and serve as president and, later, chairman.

Winegardner was responsible for putting together a new management team that improved the development and operation of Holiday Inns. By 1985, Holiday Inns, Inc. stock had reached $65 per share. Under his leadership, the company developed Embassy Suites and the Hampton Inn brand, as well as acquiring Harrah’s—a Northern Nevada hotel and casino company—and the River Boat Casino, which was contiguous to the Las Vegas Holiday Inn-Center Strip. With the opening of the Harrah’s Marina hotel and casino in Atlantic City in November 1980, Holiday Inns, Inc. became the only company with holdings in all four major gaming markets.

In 1984, Winegardner left Holiday Inns, Inc. to the very capable leadership of Michael Rose and turned his attention to his two private business interests—hotels and financial markets. He divided his time between his home and office in Memphis and his home in West Palm Beach, Florida. When not working, he hunted, fished or played golf. He died in 2009.