Culture / Cars

Tilman Fertitta Quietly Wins a Rolls-Royce Title — and Now His Extreme Luxury Car Dealership is Expanding

A PaperCity Exclusive

BY // 04.25.21

Tilman Fertitta comes up the dramatic curving staircase with little fanfare. No entourage or security detail in sight. His son Patrick is the only one with him — and Patrick quickly goes off to the side. Martin Fritsches, the president and CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Americas, is here, looking every bit the international executive he is in a killer blue suit. Fritsches is eager to greet the Houston billionaire.

Fertitta’s Post Oak Hotel Rolls-Royce dealership is being recognized as Rolls-Royce’s 2020 Dealer of the Year for the Americas. A prestigious award that comes with its own trophy, a larger version of the iconic auto brand’s unmistakable Spirit of Ecstasy winged hood ornament. But Fertitta is not trying to turn this into a show. No TV cameras were invited for the moment, only PaperCity was.

Many tend to look at Tilman Fertitta as a showman. And there is no doubt that this Fortune 500 tycoon is a master at bringing attention to — and creating buzz — around his ventures. But there is always a solid business plan behind the show. Including putting a gleaming Rolls-Royce dealership in the middle of his showcase Houston hotel.

“This dealership makes a bunch of money,” Fertitta says of being recognized as the No. 1 dealer. “It didn’t shock me. But at the same time, other people might have thought like it was a gimmick. To me, it’s part of the whole electricity of the hotel.

“It’s what makes it so special. It’s one of the many things. It’s exciting.”

For Fertitta, the award excitement is another notch for Houston, the hometown whose influence he keeps trying to grow.

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“I think it speaks for Houston and the power of Houston,” he says. “We’ve always been so far behind the Beverly Hills and the New York’s and the Miamis. And to pull this off, it also includes all of the Americas. This is a big thing. It’s a big deal. We’re very proud of it.”

Fertitta is competitive with everything he does. Whether it’s the business of turning the Houston Rockets back into a relevant team, which is going to take a little while with a true rebuild beginning with this bottom out — truly one of the worst teams in the NBA — season. Or the business of selling some of the most high-end cars in the world, the Rolls-Royces, Bentleys and Bugattis sold at Post Oak Motor Cars.

Fertitta might have already won an NBA championship in his first season as the Rockets owner if Chris Paul had not hurt his hamstring late in the 2018 Western Conference Finals. He probably would have won it. Now, just three years later, the Rockets are a team without a superstar starting over, dependent on landing a difference making player in this July’s NBA Draft. Thankfully, fates are not so fickle in the luxury automobile business.

Tilman Fertitta and his handpicked team have more control in the world of Rolls-Royces.

“Not only can you tell what his expectations are just by the surroundings,” Post Oak Motor Cars general manager Lonny Soza tells PaperCity. “He vocalizes them pretty clearly. And he inspires and expects what he expects.

“I’ve never known someone at his level who knows as much about the ground level. And it’s not just this operation. It’s every one of these disciplines.”

Tilman Fertitta always knows the numbers for all of his businesses. No matter how big or how small a part they seem to be of his overall Landry’s operations. He admits he defied some of them to build the $350 million Post Oak Hotel in order to give Houston the signature showcase hotel it’s long lacked. But now that The Post Oak has become the only Forbes’ double five star rated hotel and spa in Texas, Fertitta admits there is a lure to the idea of building another uber luxury hotel.

“Absolutely,” he tells PaperCity. “But this product cost so much to build and this is something I wanted to do for my hometown. It’s the only Forbes 10 star property in the state of Texas and the South. It’s hard to justify what I spent on this hotel.

“But this is something I just wanted to do for the city of Houston because it didn’t have this class of hotel.”

Tilman Fertitta’s Woodlands Move — and Larger Expansion

Fertitta is already building another ultra luxury pre-owned car dealership in The Woodlands. “About 100 days out on that (opening),” Soza says. “But totally boutique, just a different vibe. Very much a Tilman Fertitta experience. But a completely different vibe than this.

“And that’s just going to, I believe, be the first of many.”

Yes, Post Oak Motor Cars is about to take off as a brand with major expansion plans. But there is only one dealership like the one inside The Post Oak hotel, with Rolls-Royce Ghosts and Cullinan SUVs beckoning to passers-by from the hotel’s main lobby level corridor and the dealership extending up that striking staircase to another level.

This is the only Rolls-Royce dealership in the United States located inside a hotel. Globally, there is one other. “Truly, a unique location,” Fritsches says.

“Other people might have thought like it was a gimmick. To me, it’s part of the whole electricity of the hotel. — Tilman Fertitta

The Rolls-Royce CEO notes that winning Dealer of the Year for the Americas is no easy task. It is Rolls-Royce’s largest region globally, encompassing not just the United States, but all of South America, Canada and Mexico as well. It also accounts for more than a third of Rolls-Royce’s total business globally.

President and CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Americas Martin Fritsches and Tilman Fertitta, CEO of Fertitta Entertainment and Owner of Post Oak Motor Cars
President and CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Americas Martin Fritsches and Tilman Fertitta, CEO of Fertitta Entertainment and owner of Post Oak Motor Cars, celebrate the dealership’s big win. (Photo by Bread & Water Productions)

Dealers start asking Fritsches who is going to emerge as last year’s winner as early as January 1. The owners of luxury car dealerships may not be as competitive as sports team owners. But it’s close.

“It’s not just about selling more cars,” Fritsches says. “It’s about the experience. And bringing more customers into the luxury experience.”

“Not only can you tell what his expectations are just by the surroundings. He vocalizes them pretty clearly. And he inspires and expects what he expects.” — Post Oak Motor Cars GM Lonny Soza on Tilman Fertitta. 

At this luxury dealership in a hotel, that experience includes accepting the cryptocurrencies of both bitcoin and dogecoin for the purchase of $300,000-plus cars. Now, Post Oak Motor Cars sells one supercar per week in a cryptocurrency transaction on average, according to Sosa.

“When we got into crypto, we already had a nationwide audience,” Soza says. “Suddenly, we reached a worldwide audience.”

Now, this showy hotel dealership has built such a reputation that luxury car buyers are planning trips to Houston just to buy a supercar. “We do get people flying and staying just to buy a car,” Soza says. “It’s starting to become more of a normal, regular transaction. We just sold two cars this Saturday to people who were jet setting across the country.

“They stopped in Houston to buy two Bentleys and went on their way.”

Fertitta does not attempt to take the credit for this supersized luxury car success. Besides this low-key ceremony with no local TV stations invited and only one reporter, he quickly tries to shift the focus to Rolls-Royce and Sosa, the GM he recruited from the corporate marketing world.

“I did less work than anybody. Trust me,” he cracks.

Grateful may not be an adjective that fits Tilman Fertitta’s public image. But it’s what he sounds like on this late afternoon, with the sunlight streaming through The Post Oak’s expansive windows and shining on this fleet of already shining dream cars.

“It’s just amazing how well this hotel has done even through the pandemic,” he says.

“Patrick, you want to get in here? Let’s take a picture.”

“No, I’m good,” the son shoots back. In a few more minutes, the Fertittas will disappear into another area of the hotel, letting the car guys have the spotlight. This place is anything but a gimmick. Or just an attention grabber. Instead, it’s another major business win.

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