Posted March 28, 2023

It’s Kimpton’s Birthday — Celebrating 42 Years of Heartfelt Hospitality


Every brand has a story, and every story has a beginning. With Kimpton, it was and always is about one inimitable Bill Drennon Kimpton. Born in the 1930’s with the Great Depression still fresh on people’s minds, our founder grew up in Kansas City and flexed his entrepreneurial business savvy by majoring in economics. His first brush dabbling in real estate and hotels came in the classic form of playing Monopoly with his childhood friends.

The founder of Kimpton Hotels: Bill Drennon Kimpton.

After many years of passing Go and dealing in faux hotels, Bill had a brief stint selling typewriters before becoming an investment banker. This career took him around the world from one hotel guestroom to the next. As anyone who has traveled extensively knows, Bill often found his hotel stays to be faceless and isolating and found himself missing true human connection.

It was his experiences with warm and welcoming European bed and breakfasts that sparked the idea: What if business travelers didn’t have to wake up in room after room, devoid of personality and a sense of place? What if buildings could be revived into beautifully designed hotels with chef-led restaurants that always put the guest first? What if travel didn’t have to be quite so lonely?

Bill was inspired by European bed and breakfasts, the spark for Kimpton Hotels. (Photo Credit: @kimptonclocktower)

And now, the Clocktower in Manchester, is part of the Kimpton family. (Photo Credit: @kimptonclocktower)

Fast forward 42 years and the rest, as they say, is history. Walk with us through memory lane as we look back on Bill’s enduring legacy at Kimpton, our company culture, and the one-of-a-kind experience you have when you stay with us.

Kimpton’s First Boutique Hotel (and How Wine Got Involved)

In April 1981, San Francisco’s hotel scene was ready for primetime. It was at this time that Bill opened his flagship boutique hotel, the Clarion Bedford, with an eye on British design. With his relationships in investment banking and supporters like the late great actor Vincent Price, the hotel became a destination darling and an anchor for the revitalized Union Square neighborhood.

Bill Kimpton with actor Vincent Price at the Clarion Bedford.

Picture this: The lobby was styled after a residential living room, complete with a fireplace and four-legged friends napping nearby. Bill’s dog, Chianti, was amusingly named after his favorite wine, and he’d often pour a glass to break down the day with his team. After guests kept crashing this employee meeting, Wine Hour became a nightly tradition and is now a trademark perk for guests of all Kimpton hotels.

Chef-Focused Restaurants

Bill always joked that his money was in hotels, but his heart was in the restaurants. He loved the idea of opening restaurants that weren’t just meant for hotel guests and envisioned dynamic spaces that would draw in the locals night after night, led by empowered chefs who didn’t have to answer to a corporate menu.

Dynamic restaurants are an essential part of the Kimpton vision. (Photo Credit: @hoteleventi)

Renowned chefs such as Masa Takayama and Wolfgang Puck have taken the helm in various Kimpton kitchens, defining the San Francisco culinary scene in the 80s. Chef Wolfgang went on to have an impressive 20-year run with Postrio in Kimpton’s Prescott Hotel serving up iconic dishes like grilled quail with spinach ravioli in a sage brown butter sauce.

Animal Lovers Welcome

Since Bill couldn’t bear the thought of charging fees for pets, Kimpton also became one of the first hotels to introduce a brand wide pet-friendly policy with no sneaky fees. Four decades later, if your pet fits through the door, they’re as welcome as the humans. Fun fact: Some of our more unconventional friends have included llamas and penguins!

And, of course, furry friends are always welcome. (Photo Credit: @ixtoni)

Animal print robes have also become a bold brand signature — a brand wide eye for sartorial design has evolved into a collection of unique robes, ranging from pinstripes to kimono-style and reflect each hotel’s individual aesthetic.

Leading with Heart

On a more sobering note, the 80s and the AIDS crisis rocked the San Francisco community including beloved members of the Kimpton family. Bill personally paid for employees’ funerary expenses and, later, we launched a Red Ribbon campaign to benefit the National AIDS Fund and to honor their memory.

The highest of standards were also important to Kimpton’s founder. (Photo Credit: @rowanpalmsprings)

We also received a 100% score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index — the first hotel company to do so — and it’s a benchmark we’ve kept up with ever since. Not only is this standard a testament to Bill’s legacy of heartfelt care, but it is also representative of the unwavering support he had for employees to always be true to themselves.

Earth-Friendly from the Start

Aside from breathing new life into storied buildings, Bill wanted to make sure that our operations were kind to the environment long before being green was the norm. He established significant eco-friendly best practices that we dubbed “Earthcare”. And after his passing, we kept up our commitment to sustainability by initiating partnerships with the Trust for Public Land and The Nature Conservancy.

Kimpton remains earth-friendly, a testament to Bill’s vision. (Photo Credit: @parisa_paris_pari)

Cheers to you, Bill. (Photo Credit: @shorebreakresort)

Wine Hour began incorporating Wines That Care, wines hand-selected by Kimpton sommeliers for the producers’ dedication to sustainability or local and global causes. All Kimpton restaurants also abide by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, offering only sustainable seafood selections on our menus. Many of our hotels are also LEED certified, which is the ultimate badge of honor for green buildings.

In summary, Bill was one-of-a-kind and the best kind of maverick. Many of our best known programs can trace their history to Bill’s zest for a life well lived and all of the meaningful ways in which he extended that deep, heartfelt care to his employees and guests. So on Kimpton’s 42nd birthday, we toast to his memory and legacy.

Thank you Bill, for everything.

The one and only, Bill Kimpton.


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  1. Jeannette Margarella says:

    Love the Kimpton. We’ve stayed at the Cayman Islanld resort and loved it. And we also stayed at the Vero Beach resort. He picks great spots to develop his hotels. We vacationed in the Caymans and watched the Kimpton rise. Haven’t been able to travel lately due to my son having many feet surgeries and we have many pets that we love that is not a good time to leave. But as soon as we are able to your hotel will be the first we visit.

  2. Susan Rubin says:

    We have been staying at Kimpton hotels since the 80s, and Bill Kimpton was revered by his staff at each level. His presence was felt everywhere-his philosophy permeated everything. Unfortunately this is not always the case now, as Kimpton has become more Corporate and less Personal. This doesn’t diminish the brand-it just changes it for those of us who knew it when.

  3. Tracy says:

    I had the pleasure of doing a job walk with him on the Denver Monaco when I was a new Engineer on the project… his attention to detail and demand for quality has stayed with me throughout my career!

  4. Simon Pursifull says:

    What a nicely written article. And Kimpton and Price, both fellow Missourians!

  5. Molly-Jane Rubinger says:

    I am 78 years old, and a very loyal Kimpton fan for many years.
    I happily toast Bill’s memory with thanks for creating a brand that makes me feel youthful as soon as I enter a Kimpton hotel lobby!