Leslie D Hale is the president and CEO of RLJ Lodging Trust, a significant hotel real estate investment trust (REIT). Hale became the first African-American woman to lead a publicly traded real estate investment trust when she was named CEO of RLJ Lodging Trust in 2018.
At the time, the Bethesda, Maryland-based hotel corporation had over 30,000 rooms spread across 153 hotels in the United States. It also had a market capitalization of $3.8 billion. Hale joins a select group of nine female CEOs among 166 publicly traded real estate investment trusts in the United States.
Hale has nearly three decades of experience in finance, real estate, and hospitality. She is credited with playing a vital influence in the recent growth and expansion of RLJ Trust. She brought the company to exceptional financial success in 2022. Revenue climbed by more than half to $1.19 billion, up from $785.6 million.
Hale joined the company in 2005 as director of real estate and finance and rose through the ranks to become chief financial officer in 2007. In 2016, she was appointed executive vice president of real estate and finance and chief operating officer before being named CEO in 2018.
While in college, Hale fell in love with real estate financing. The concept of profit, according to the granddaughter of a Tennessee sharecropper, was foreign to her.
“I fell in love with finance when I took my first finance class in college.” It was incredible to be able to take a dollar and transform it into two. “As a skinny kid from South Central Los Angeles who went to public school, it was fascinating to me to be able to take one dollar and turn it into two,” she told REIT.com.
She worked at GE for several years before joining RLJ. She was a member of GE’s Commercial Finance Mergers & Acquisitions Group as well as the Real Estate Strategic Capital Group. She also worked at Goldman Sachs as an investment banker, advising on mergers, acquisitions, and corporate finance.
The Compton native attended public schools in Los Angeles and graduated from an HBCU. She graduated from Howard University with a finance degree in 1994 and went on to Harvard Business School for her MBA, where she was a Goldman Sachs and Toigo Fellow.
Aside from RLJ, she is a member of the Board of Directors of Macy’s, Inc. and a Trustee of Howard University. Hale credits her rise from the streets of Los Angeles to the C-suite to friends, family, and mentors. “I have been very thoughtful throughout my career, to be in a position to be very successful,” the wife and mother from Potomac, Maryland, stated. RLJ focuses on talent and contribution rather than race and gender.”