Originally appeared in Denver Business Journal in May, 2019
Navin Dimond wasn’t supposed to be here — physically or professionally.
The son of blue-collar immigrant parents who worked as a bus driver and factory worker in London, Dimond viewed education as his way to move up in life, and he received three college degrees in his quest to do so. But it was only by chance that he came to Denver after receiving his undergraduate degree from Washington State University in 1985, choosing to sleep on a friend’s couch as he looked for jobs and eventually ended up working as an intern in the University of Denver’s executive MBA program while he used the tuition break from that job to get his master’s degree.
Thirty-four years later, Dimond’s Stonebridge Companies operates 60 hotels across the United States — two-thirds of which he owns — while managing more than 11,500 rooms and employing more than 4,000 associates. Roughly half that stock is in Denver, where he’s transformed an old bank into the Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center Hotel and is getting ready to renovate the old Emily Griffith school across from the Colorado Convention Center into the city’s first Tapestry Collection by Hilton facility, among other projects.
Dimond can talk at length about how to spot a good opportunity to develop or manage a hotel from New Orleans to Seattle — he says he probably accepts only 1% of the deals he is offered — and about why Denver is such a booming market. He also is willing to continue to bet big on the Mile High City, believing its attractiveness for both business and leisure travelers will continue to foment growth in the market despite a boom cycle that has lasted nearly a decade now.
But in addition to being known as one of the state’s biggest hotel magnates, Dimond is growing a reputation as one of its most significant philanthropists as well. In 2014, he donated $1.5 million to Metropolitan State University of Denver to help it launch a hospitality fellowship program in which students compete for the chance to do intensive professional-development work in the industry for one year. Earlier this year, he broadened his university giving, offering $5 million from the Dimond Family Foundation to University of Denver to build a freshman residential hall.
Dimond and his foundation focus their giving on two areas: education and children’s organizations, particularly those that help impoverished children who may have drug-addicted parents or who may need early-childhood education in third-world countries. The reason is simple: The 57-year-old married husband of two daughters understands what it’s like to grow up poor, and he understands how education can change such a life.
“Between those two causes, I think you touch everyone in the world,” Dimond said. “When you’re born, you don’t get to vote ‘I want to be Bill Gates’ child.’ You are the most innocent human you can be. And you can be in tough places.”
While Dimond has been a pace-setter for the local hotel industry with his historic renovations and wide range of investments, he would like to have more sway when it comes to corporate giving. Not only does he believe that more leaders in the Denver business community should be willing to donate time and money to charitable causes, but he believes there needs to be more collaboration among nonprofits to make more efficient use of community philanthropy and ensure that organizations are not overlapping in unhelpful ways.
“I think the notion of giving can take courage,” he said. “I’d like to give more people the courage to give. There’s plenty of wealth in this town.”
That will become even more true as more people and companies move to Denver — a migration that is happening because people understand the town more than they ever have on a national level, he said. It took a bit of circumstance and luck for Dimond to get here and to make that connection, but he’s using the love he’s found for this place to employ people and to give them the hand-up they need to maybe do the same one day.
“I didn’t think I’d be here. Sometimes I look and say ‘Why am I sitting in this seat getting interviewed by you? I’m a kid who was born to two immigrant parents,'” he said from his company’s Denver Tech Center headquarters. “No, I didn’t expect this. But I’m happy it was here.”
By: Ed Sealover