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James T. Merkel

CEO | Rockbridge

Rockbridge CEO James ‘Jim’ Merkel has two decades of experience building hospitality investment and operating companies. Jim has always focused on building great teams while providing the vision for how to grow, lead, and strategically take advantage of an always evolving landscape.

Jim’s drive and vision have positioned Rockbridge as a leader in hospitality. Its tenured and cycle-tested team provides expertise in origination, investment and risk management, as well as renovation and construction. Rockbridge’s earned success is due in part to Jim’s passion and leadership. His instinctive ability to recognize opportunity and be fully engaged while focusing his team on driving successful outcomes, creates a dynamic, winning culture at Rockbridge.

Under Jim’s stewardship, Rockbridge continues to grow. Its current success features six hotel funds and over 200 hotel investments in 38 states with transactions worth approximately $5 billion to date. The company is currently ranked the ninth largest hotel owner and developer in the U.S., according to Hotel Business Magazine. In 2010, Jim formed RBHD, a leading hotel development and construction business. In 6 years, RBHD has performed $800+ MM in renovation and ground up construction in 37 hotels.

Prior to the formation of Rockbridge, Jim was an executive with the firm’s predecessor, Real Estate Investment Group of Banc One Capital Markets, Inc., currently JPMorgan Chase. During his tenure, Jim and other Rockbridge founders managed four, closed-end, hospitality-focused, real estate funds.

Jim’s passion and vision extend beyond the investment world and drive a strong commitment by Rockbridge to making a difference in the communities in which it operates. In 2010, Jim created and launched Rock the Road, an experiential leadership and innovation event with the goal of doing good business, achieving personal fulfillment and giving back to the community. The event raises money for cancer research and benefits Pelotonia, a 2-day cycling event. Through Rock the Road, Rockbridge has raised over $2.1 million in six years and $800,000 alone in 2016.

Additionally, Jim is the top, individual fundraiser in the nation for Big Brothers Big Sisters. His leadership has driven Rockbridge to raise over $1 million dollars for BBBS. He also provides leadership to BBBS as a board member with the local organization. Community leadership and corporate responsibility are ingrained in the culture at Rockbridge.

Jim has held key leadership positions over the last 20 years on industry boards, including the FHG Advisory Board, Starwood North American Advisory Council, Hilton Owners Advisory Council, and Lodging Industry Investment Council. He has been a featured speaker at many industry events and industry publications. Through dedicated service, he earned the notable Starwood Hotel and Resorts President’s Award at the annual 2014 North America Owner Conference.

Jim graduated from the University of Michigan.

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