Just a couple of years ago, David Siegel, CEO of Westgate Resorts, was being met with ridicule due to his documentary expose, "The Queen of Versailles." This year, he was named "Best Industry Leader" at February’s Global Networking Expo (GNEX) 2014.
Perspective Magazine, the industry’s leading global independent trade publication, bestows over 30 awards at their annual GNEX conference. With judging by a panel of industry experts and peers, Mr. Siegel had to meet the tough criteria of the award’s panel and beat serious competition in order to win. The criteria states that the winner must, "be an exceptional motivator who demonstrates true commitment to excellence and the advancement of the industry. The winner must also be a determined leader who shows loyalty to employees and lifts their company to success beyond the challenges of the current marketplace."
The Queen of Versailles
Some mocked Mr. Siegel about Lauren Greenfield’s 2012 documentary, "The Queen of Versailles." The queen is Mr. Siegel’s wife Jackie, a one-time Florida beauty queen and the star of the documentary. Versailles is the name given to Siegel’s 90,000 sq. ft. palatial home, whose construction of, and Siegel’s subsequent financial challenges in building it after the 2008 economic crisis, was followed in the documentary.
Overall, the documentary received a number of positive reviews from critics including a Rotten Tomatoes score of 95% out of 100 reviews being positive, and an average score of 8/10. A voter consensus statement read, "The Queen of Versailles is a timely, engaging and richly drawn portrait of the American Dream improbably composed of equal parts compassion and schadenfreude." Jackie Siegel, as the main star of the film, received overall positive reviews for her candor and no-holds-barred narration. The documentary also received awards for best directing at the Sundance Film Festival, and a nomination for best documentary of 2012 by the International Documentary Association.
Mr. Siegel filed a civil action before the Sundance premiere against the documentary’s director Greenfield. Siegel wasn’t happy with the way the film had been described in promotional materials. He also claimed that Greenfield had not obtained a proper release from the subjects of the film, mainly David Siegel and Westgate Resorts. In January 2013, the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida, stayed the suit pending arbitration. Judge Anne C. Conway stated that Siegel’s testimony was, "inconsistent and incredible and therefore lacking weight," even going on to say that his position was "quite bizarre in light of his subsequent conduct."
Mr. Siegel began his career earlier than most. Last year, Siegel was a featured speaker at GNEX 2013, spoke about his first job of delivering papers out of a red wagon when only four years old. At age 10 he raised pigeons for the military, and later his entrée into retail operations was selling TV’s in a less than desirable neighborhood. Siegel also talked about risk taking and opening his first resort at the West Gate of Disneyland that quickly became a success. Now the company has over 10,000 guest rooms at 28 full-service resorts in premiere travel destinations throughout the U.S.
Mr. Siegel is adept at bouncing back from adversity, and no one can deny his success in the resort industry. Always outspoken, and somewhat of a renegade, his entrepreneurial spirit has served him well throughout his career. In the past 30 years, he has built CFI Westgate Resorts into the largest privately owned company in Central Florida. Timeshare, real estate, construction, hotel and apartment management, travel services, telecommunications, retail, transportation and more are all part of his massive business empire.