Arlington Heights woman finds niche leading major hotel

Karen McGuigan of Arlington Heights marks her 30th anniversary this year in the hotel industry and is one of the few women in a top role at a major hotel.

McGuigan, 53, is general manager of Hyatt Centric The Loop Chicago. It was a newly launched brand for Hyatt in 2014 and McGuigan was excited to be part of the team to help launch it.

"There are just a couple of us. We're still a minority, but we're here," she said. "But looking around, everyone has been great. It could have been intimidating, but I didn't flinch. I just saw it as a challenge and I've been at a company where they're supportive."

Since then, 15 such Hyatt Centrics have opened nationwide as part of a franchise. She oversees about 55 employees in Chicago.

While building the brand, she built her career, only to take a brief leave of absence earlier this year when she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She has since had surgery and remains cancer free, she said. She continues on her quest to make the new Hyatt Centric brand a hit with guests.

McGuigan grew up on Chicago's Northwest Side and after her son was born, she moved to Arlington Heights in 1989. She remarried in 1990 to Mike McGuigan, who is general manager of the Hilton Orrington in Evanston. Then while they raised two children, she wanted to make sure she kept her career in this market.

McGuigan started her career as a front desk clerk at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare in 1987.

"I absolutely loved it and knew that's where I wanted to stay," she said. "Hotels have a lot of opportunities in a lot of departments."

She has since moved to different positions at various Hyatt hotels, and even Marriott for a brief time. But she returned to Hyatt.

As she moved around the industry, she was asked in 2014 to become general manager of the first Hyatt Centric, a new lifestyle brand that is a franchise. It focuses on ensuring guests have a more Chicago-focused experience where the staff become experts on everything that can be enjoyed in the city.

"There's a lot of competition and I aimed to help create a loyalty to this brand," McGuigan said.


Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World in Lincolnshire and host of "The Profit" on CNBC, donated two front row tickets to Friday's World Series game to Everett "Jim" Schlegel of Elgin so that he could attend with his son Bill Schlegel, said a Lemonis spokeswoman. Schlegel is 97 and an Army veteran of World War II. Lemonis heard through social media that the man's granddaughter, Helen Schlegel of Niles, who created a Go Fund Me page to help raise money to get her grandfather to a game. Lemonis tweeted earlier in the week that he wanted to find a longtime loyal fan to provide a ticket. Many people on social media reached out after seeing the Go Fund Me page. Marcus then asked for assistance on social media to get in touch with Jim and they were able to connect. Now, the Go Fund Me page, which has reached more than $12,000, will all be donated to the Purple Heart Foundation, the spokeswoman said.

Joe Khairallah, who lives in Mount Prospect, is the new president of Marcus Hotels & Resorts, based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Marcus Hotels & Resorts is a national hotel management company with nearly 20 hotels nationwide, including the AC Hotel on Rush Street in Chicago. Khairallah joined the company in 2013 as chief operating officer. He is a native of Lebanon, graduated from the prestigious Haulot Institute in Belgium and has studied six languages.

Shay Grafer was promoted to mortgage banker at Schaumburg-based Heartland Bank and Trust Co. and will serve customers in Hampshire, Huntley, Genoa and Schaumburg while being based at the Hampshire branch.

Linda Steele, a fitness expert and model in Elk Grove Village, does a live broadcast, three times a week, on a channel called Fit. Live on Periscope.

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During the grand opening in 2014 of the Hyatt Centric, Karen McGuigan poses with Mark Hoplamazian, CEO of Hyatt Hotels, left, and John Murphy, vice chairman of MB Real Estate. COURTESY OF Hyatt Centric The Loop Chicago
Marcus Lemonis is CEO of Lincolnshire-based Camping World and the host of CNBC's reality TV show, "The Profit." COURTESY OF SANDRO
Joe Khairallah
Shay Grafer
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