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BUSINESS A “SPIRIT WARRIOR” BOUNCES BACK

By MARTY PRIMEAU |

Ever wonder what happened to Bob Zimnier, the dapper hotelier with a penchant for quality who brought us The Mansion on Turtle Creek and the Hotel Crescent Court? After nine years as president of Rosewood Hotels Inc., owned by billion-airess Caroline Rose Hunt, Zimmer left last December amid a flurry of rumors.

One hot item concerned the amount of travel time Zimmer was logging with assistant Jan Russell, who often accompanied her boss around the world. Russell had been a management consultant with a Canadian firm brought in by Rosewood to reorganize the administration of the company. She recommended some personnel changes, including ousting Zimmer’s longtime secretary, Zimmer offered Russell the job as his assistant and told her to lake care of future hiring and firing. Eventually she was promoted to director of planning.

As for rumors of an affair with Russell, Zimmer says it’s just malicious gossip fueled by hard feelings at Rosewood. He insists he left “the family” because of a difference in business philosophy.

The company was revamped last December, combining Rosewood Hotels Company and Rosewood Retail Inc. under the parent group, Rosewood Property Company, with Zimmer reporting to president and CEO Dennis Alberts. With the hotel group losing money, the new focus will be on selling or refinancing properties while retaining a management contract.

Zimmer disagreed with the philosophy and told Hunt that he couldn’t tolerate two leadership positions. “I met with her in October and gave her several months’ notice,” Zimmer says. “They made the decision that I should leave immediately.”

Zimmer-who says he is still happily married to wife Kaye- has formed The Robert D. Zimmer Group with Russell as one of his partners. The new group will provide investment, design, and management consulting services to the international hospitality industry. One of Zimmer’s current projects is the $25 million restoration of St. Andrews Old Course Hotel, a historic hostelry in St. Andrews, Scotland, known as the birthplace of golf.

Zimmer, who calls himself a “spirit warrior,” also is active in global peace issues. One of his ventures is the Windstar Foundation, founded by singer John Denver as an ongoing crusade for the environment. Zimmer believes the bad feelings over his split from Rosewood have a lot to do with those causes. “I challenged the values of Dallas and put fear into some fundamental beliefs,” he says. “They didn’t know how to deal with that.”