When Bob Gaglardi opened his first Sandman Inn in Smithers, British Columbia, back in 1967, the hotel business was simpler than it is today. There was no internet to spark intense competition or publicize consumer reviews. The average customer expected a small, clean room with few frills.
Getting financing for a hotel in Canada back then, however, was not so simple.
“Financing was very, very difficult to do in Canada,” Gaglardi recalled. “We pretty well had to do with trust companies and with government banking. Basically, banks were balance sheet lenders in those years and weren’t business lenders.”
Today, Gaglardi’s company, now known as Northland Properties, owns hotels all across Canada — and is expanding internationally to the United Kingdom and the United States. Gaglardi and his son, Tom Gaglardi, who now runs the company, credit Wells Fargo for enabling their company to grow and evolve.
The Gaglardis have added brands to their hotel line, including the upscale Sandman Signature hotels and the luxurious Sutton Place hotels, which has a flagship location in downtown Vancouver.
“It’s great to have such a large bank come to Canada with big plans, and this is a bank that understands real estate, understands the hotel industry, and is bigger than any bank we have in Canada,” said Tom Gaglardi. “So, we welcome them in Canada with open arms.”
Northland was among Wells Fargo’s first clients when it opened its first Middle Market Banking office in Vancouver in 2011, said John Davis, Wells Fargo regional manager for western Canada Middle Market Banking.
“We do tend to have a slightly different way of structuring our financing versus some of the Canadian banks — a little more tailored, a little more flexible — and Tom really enjoys that,” Davis said. “We’ve been able to do revolving lines of credit against their properties, (which) allows them to use the money when they need it for improvements or for general operating needs — something that Canadian banks frankly didn’t do as well or didn’t offer.”
Northland, which is approaching its 50th anniversary, now employs 10,000 people across Canada and continues to expand beyond hotels. As Canada’s fastest growing hospitality group, it also owns and manages restaurants, sports teams, and a construction division.
“When you do look back, it’s somewhat in awe because you are amazed at how many people that now are employed and how many lives you’re touching, how many dreams that you have created for others,” Bob Gaglardi said, “and that’s very, very humbling.”