Mr. Neviaser has been primarily involved in commercial real estate and hospitality management, development, acquisition and capitalization since 1980. He began his career working for his father, Dan, who owned Neviaser Investments and was a real estate and hotel developer/operator based in Madison, WI. Mr. Neviaser obtained his Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) designation from the Realtors National Marketing Institute in 1984 and also served on the Operators Marketing Committee for the Howard Johnson Company for several years during the 1980’s, as well as being deeply involved in local and state community and political activities. During the period 1981 through 1994, in addition to working with Dan in development and management of the family portfolio, he successfully assembled various investment entities on his own to buy and operate a variety of real estate projects in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
In 1995, Mr. Neviaser co-founded, with Marc Vaccaro, Bob Stoehr and Craig Stark, The Great Lakes Companies (GLC) in Madison, WI and was Co-Chairman and CEO of the company. GLC was involved in the development and management of a broad range of commercial real estate, senior multifamily housing and hospitality real estate projects. GLC grew very quickly and during the period 1995 – 2004, the company and its affiliates developed or acquired over 55 senior housing projects in the upper Midwest, 16 franchise hotels in the eastern third of the U.S., and a variety of other commercial real estate projects.
GLC’s track record in the development and operation of its entire hospitality portfolio was extraordinarily successful, with each hotel averaging roughly 120% of it’s proportionate share of ADR and occupancy in each market. Twelve of GLC’s franchise hotels won their New Hotel of the Year Awards from their respective franchisors.
Beginning in 1997, GLC began to consider entry into the indoor waterpark family resort industry, as that nascent business was developing solely in Wisconsin Dells, WI. GLC identified the Black Wolf Lodge as the best version to take outside of Wisconsin and broke ground on the first resort in October 1999. In December 1999 a GLC affiliate purchased Black Wolf Lodge and renamed it Great Wolf Lodge. With the very successful opening of the Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky, OH in March 2001, GLC then pursued development of five more resorts, all breaking ground between Fall 2001 and Fall 2003.
By late 2004, Great Wolf Resorts (GWR) had five resorts open, two under construction and five more in predevelopment. The Great Wolf investor average IRR annual returns were over 40%. By then, GLC had about 4,200 employees and had developed a total combined portfolio valued at roughly $1.5 billion. On December 15, 2004, GLC spun off and completed the IPO for Great Wolf Resorts (Nasdaq:WOLF), which achieved an enterprise value of about $1 billion within three months of the IPO. Mr. Neviaser was Chairman of the public company December 2004 until September 2006.
In June 2012, the public company was acquired by Apollo Global Partners for roughly $730 million, including assumed debt of about $500 million. In June 2015, Apollo sold the company to Centerbridge Partners for $1.35 billion, including about $400 million of assumed debt. In late 2019, an affiliate of Blackstone Partners acquired 65% of the company from Centerbridge at an overall company value of $2.9 billion. There are now 19 Great Wolf Lodge resorts open with several more in predevelopment in the U.S. as well as outside the country.
While leading GLC/GWR, Mr. Neviaser’s primary responsibilities included development and execution of strategy, management of growth processes and the capitalization of that growth. GLC/GWR developed a robust capitalization system, utilizing institutional funding of the senior housing portfolio, private placements for hospitality and commercial real estate projects and a sizable portfolio of bank lenders. Combined, GLC completed over 90 individual projects over the period 1994 – 2004, and raised total investor equity of about $260 million from an eventual pool of over 2,000 investors via Reg D private placements. In 2005, after the successful IPO of WOLF, Mr. Neviaser founded Continuum Investment L.P., an angel investment firm specializing in early-stage investments in biotech, software, and internet related businesses that focus on utilizing proprietary products and services to enhance operating efficiencies for targeted markets. At Continuum, Mr. Neviaser oversaw private placement funding that totaled over $50 million of equity for fourteen portfolio companies based in the Midwest and Southern California.
In early 2015, Mr. Neviaser partnered again with Craig Stark, the former partner at GLC/GWR who oversaw all hospitality operations with great success. They formed a pair of new entities, Imagine Resorts & Hotels, LLC and Imagine Hospitality, LLC, for the specific purpose of creating and developing a new, dramatically enhanced version of the family destination waterpark resort, to be rolled out in the U.S. and beyond.
Hasbro Imagine Resorts will be large resorts, averaging about 550 guestrooms to start, with capacity for expansion. The resorts will feature waterpark amenities but will also include large family entertainment centers, various activity centers for art, music and cooking experiences, indoor and outdoor entertainment venues, numerous diversely themed food and beverage outlets, a destination day spa, meeting space and more.
Imagine signed a license agreement with Hasbro Location Based Entertainment for exclusive access to the Hasbro brand library for a period of up to forty years in the U.S. and Canada for family destination resorts. In addition to their iconic brands, Hasbro brings enormous depth and expertise in terms of brand development and management, social media, public relations, co-branding opportunities and content development, all of which is accessible for use by Imagine. The first Hasbro Imagine Resort is slated for Hollister (Branson), MO, breaking ground in mid-2022, with several more resorts in predevelopment in various markets around the U.S.
Mr. Neviaser serves on the Board of the Madison Children’s Museum and, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, serves on the Advisory Board for the Weinert Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, the Advisory Board of the Paul Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center at UW Hospitals & Clinics and is an Emeritus member of the Advisory Board to the Dean of the School of Business.
Mr. Neviaser resides in Middleton, WI with his wife, Deb DeVoe Neviaser. They have four grown children, two loyal pups and are awaiting grandchildren!