Team hero desktop

The Pod Executive Team

An entrepreneurial and dynamic team with over 150 years of combined expertise in hotel real estate development, investment and operation.

Richard Born

Co-founder & CEO

Richard Born

Co-founder & CEO

In June of 1985 Richard Born left his surgical residency and took a job as a broker with Brenner & Lewis, a boutique brokerage firm specializing in hotels. Within six months he found himself closing multiple large transactions and decided to strike out on his own.

Born partnered with Ira Drukier in 1986 to form BD Hotels for the purpose of acquiring and developing hospitality assets in NYC, being that their fathers both had 40 years of industry experience. Currently, BD Hotels has ownership interests in several billion dollars’ worth of properties within a significantly under leveraged portfolio. They have slowly and methodically built their holdings through the acquisition and improvement of well-located undervalued buildings which they generally continue to hold.

BD Hotels owns and operates over 25 hotels with over 5,000 rooms. Included in their portfolio are: The Mercer, The Bowery, The Maritime, The Greenwich, The Jane and Pod Hotels. They have developed every hospitality segment from small luxury boutiques to large tourist properties. In addition to their hospitality business, Born and Drukier have developed multiple residential rentals, cooperatives, condominiums as well as dormitories.

Virtually all of Born and Drukier’s holdings have required extensive construction post acquisition. In all, they have completed construction on over 2 million square feet of space in over 30 projects. Although they have done several ground-up construction projects, the majority of their experience has been with gut renovation of existing prewar buildings in the city. All of their projects, to date, have been completed in a timely fashion and usually with substantial cost savings.

Ira Drukier

Co-founder

Ira Drukier

Co-founder

Ira Drukier was born in Lodz, Poland shortly after World War II. His parents, Charles and Toby, survived the war in ghettos, work camps, and forests. After his birth, his parents, Charles and Toby, moved to Brighton Beach, New York where they reestablished their home. In 1954, the family became citizens of the United States.

Ira Drukier received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University in 1966, and an M.Eng. in the same field, the following year. He then went on to earn a Ph.D. at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, which he was awarded in 1973. Upon graduation, he joined the David Sarnoff Research Center of RCA in Princeton, NJ. There he pursued research in the field of microwave semiconductors; developing the first high power compound semiconductor field-effect transistor. In 1976 he joined Microwave Semiconductor Corporation (MSC) where he started a division to develop and manufacture high power microwave transistors for commercial and military uses. During this time he published numerous papers in the field of microwave transistors. He also authored a chapter in the first book published on GaAs Field Effect Transistors. In 1981 Siemens Corporation acquired MSC. Dr. Drukier stayed with the company, as a corporate Vice-President until 1983 when he left to start a new career in real estate.

In the fall of 1983 he began to develop hotel properties in New York City. While at that time the concept of ‘boutique’ hotels had not yet been created, Ira along with his partner Richard Born began to develop hotels with a distinct sense of style. Among their first projects together was the Hotel Elysee in midtown New York City. It was a sleepy 100-room hotel that was only famous for being the home of the Monkey Bar Restaurant. The hotel was entirely renovated into a charming European style property. Since then they have applied that approach to numerous properties with reasonable success. They presently own and manage more hotel rooms in New York City than any other single group. Their hotel properties include the Mercer, Holiday Inn at 57th Street, the Metro, Chambers, Maritime, Blakely New York, and the Bowery. In addition, in 2007 they developed the Greenwich Hotel in TriBeCa.

He is Vice-Chair of the American Society for Yad Vashem, was on the Board of Trustees of Cornell University for 8 years, chaired its Subcommittee on Building and Properties and is presently an Emeritus Trustee and Presidential Councilor. During his tenure as Chair of Buildings and Properties, Cornell developed and complete landmark buildings designed by Rem Koolhaus, Richard Meier and Thomas Mayne (all Pritzker Prize Awarded Architects). He is also on the Cornell Tech Task Force to help develop a new graduate school of technology on Roosevelt Island in NYC. His is on the Council of the NYC Museum of Jewish Heritage, Chair Emeritus of the Council for the Johnson Art Museum at Cornell University, and is Chair of the Building Committee of the Board of Trustees of the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, NY. During his tenure at the Parrish Museum he led in the development of new museum design by Herzog and DeMeuron (also a Pritzker Prize winner). He also serves on the President’s Council of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Recently he has joined the Board of Overseers for the Weill Cornell Medical School in NYC.

He grows orchids, especially Lycastes, and together with his wife collects Dada and Surrealist works on paper and 18th-century Dutch watercolors. He is married to Gale (who holds a Ph.D. from Teachers’ College of Columbia University) and they have a daughter Jennifer, who graduated from Cornell University in 2001. He is the grandfather to Chase, Holden and Flint Birnbaum.

David Bernstein

Managing Director Operations

David Bernstein

Managing Director Operations

David Bernstein was born in Bayside, New York on June 10, 1960. He attended high school at the Manhattan Talmudic Academy in New York City. In 1978 he graduated MTA with honors and was the captain of the basketball team. After graduating high school, David spent a year in Israel, teaching basketball to underprivileged youth.

In September of 1979, David began his studies at the State University of New York at Binghamton. He graduated in June 1982 and received a bachelor’s degree in Economics. It was at that point that his career in the hotel industry began. Front desk associate, assistant manager, and night auditor were several of the positions David had at the Executive Hotel in NYC. It was there where he first learned of the boutique hotel concept. The Executive Hotel was to become the first hotel in the Morgan’s Hotel Group.

David then made the decision to make a career out of the hotel business. He attended the Cornell School of Hotel Management, graduating in June of 1985 with a Master's degree in Hotel Management.

Upon graduating from Cornell, David returned to work in the New York City hotel industry. Since that time he has been involved in converting, renovating and repositioning several hotels in the city. Bringing online over 2000 new rooms. In October of 2004, David joined BD hotels, to reposition the Pickwick Arms Hotel. The Pickwick was converted to the first POD Hotel. Since then David has served as the Managing Director of Pod Hotels. He has been a major force in the expansion and growth of Pod Hotels.

David serves on the board of several institutions that address the needs of special needs individuals. He is an avid bicycle rider and enjoys golfing, tennis and travel.

Rani Gharbié

Head of Acquisitions & Development

Rani Gharbié

Head of Acquisitions & Development

Rani currently leads Acquisitions & Development for Pod Hotels where he’s responsible for identifying investment opportunities and working closely with capital partners and strategic investors to fund future projects for the brand.

Throughout his career, Rani oversaw and contributed to the growth of 20 hotels worth over $1.8B in real estate value. Formerly, Rani oversaw development and acquisitions for North America at Virgin Hotels. Prior to Virgin, he was the Managing Director & Founder at Cedar Funds, a New York City-based development and investment firm with a focus on progressive hotel & real estate assets.

Prior to launching Cedar Funds, Rani worked in key positions in the hotel and real estate industries. He was regional Director of Development with InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), where he was responsible for actively expanding IHG’s premier hotel brands, including InterContinental, Hotel Indigo and Holiday Inn. Prior to IHG, he worked for Jones Lang LaSalle where he advised key clients on real estate investment and development projects valued at $4.2B.

Rani is an Adjunct Professor at Columbia's Masters in Real Estate Development program, where he teaches in the spring Private Equity Development, Hotel Focus. He holds a Master's degree from the program, an MBA from the HEC Business School in Montreal, a Bachelor's degree in Hotel Management from the Glion Hotel School in Switzerland, and a Certificate in Hotel Real Estate Investments and Asset Management from Cornell University in New York.

Rani is also a regular guest speaker at key industry conferences. He has lived on three continents and speaks three languages. He is an avid traveler, runner, cyclist, golfer, and vinyasa yoga. He lives in New York City with his wife Alisha and baby boy, Reece.

Caroline Gleser

Managing Partner

Caroline Gleser

Managing Partner

Caroline has been with the BD and Pod Hotels teams since 2006. In her time with the companies, she has played many roles in over a dozen projects, including the development and opening of over 2,500 hotel rooms across 10 properties. Caroline is involved in all aspects of Pod and BD’s businesses, including site acquisition, financing, development, and operations. Caroline graduated from The School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University.

Colleen Heslin

Vice President of Revenue Management

Colleen Heslin

Vice President of Revenue Management

As Vice President of Revenue Management for Pod Hotels, Colleen Heslin is responsible for the overall vision and strategic execution to drive demand optimization and revenue profitability.

Prior to joining BD Hotel Group, Heslin was with IHG as the Regional Revenue Director, North America. In this capacity, she oversaw a large portfolio of hotels located in major markets throughout the U.S. with a high concentration in New York City, Washington D.C., Boston, MA, and Miami, FL. Prior to IHG, Heslin held regional and corporate revenue positions at Denihan Hotel Group and Highgate Hotels.

Simone Stevens

Director of Design

Simone Stevens

Director of Design

Having grown up in a modernist house in Frankfurt, Germany, Simone became inspired by interior design and architecture from a young age, particularly that of the Bauhaus movement. When traveling with her family as a child, she would wander off on her own to explore the public spaces of hotels they stayed at, curious about their design and layout. Experience through travel has always been important to Simone, and led her to choose hotel design as the topic of her thesis at the School of Visual Arts, where she obtained her BFA in Interior Design.

Simone started her career as a designer at the original Pod Hotel which opened in 2007, and has continued to grow with the brand. She has also worked internationally in Berlin and London with experience in hospitality and residential interiors, furniture design, project management, logistics management and photography.

In her free time, Simone enjoys volunteering at her local animal shelter, going to concerts and art museums, and checking out the design of New York’s endlessly innovative hotels and restaurants.

Shanna Soares

Director of Marketing

Shanna Soares

Director of Marketing

Shanna brings over 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, public relations, and communications to her role as Director of Marketing and Digital Strategy at Pod Hotels. Joining the team in 2016, she has led an extensive website redesign, digitally on-boarded two properties, and successfully implemented strategies to grow audiences across platforms. Shanna believes in a holistic approach to digital marketing, unifying in depth data analysis with creative content, authentic storytelling, and memorable experiences.

Shanna has worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; at a boutique PR agency on a variety of projects ranging from a luxury Caribbean villa to a personal rebrand of an iconic hip-hop artist; and in sales and marketing for Mondadori, the largest publishing company in Italy. Shanna has a BA in Art History and Anthropology and certification in Public Relations and Integrated Marketing Communications from NYU and is an AMA Professional Certified Marketer in Digital Marketing.

Raghbar Singh

Director of Finance

Raghbar Singh

Director of Finance

Raghbar has more than 30 years of diverse administrative, supervisory, and financial experience in the hospitality industry. From 1973 through 1994, Raghbar worked in a variety of roles at the Henry Hudson Hotel and was the General Manager of the property from 1984–1994. Subsequently, Raghbar was General Manager of On the Ave Hotel from 1994–1997. In 1997, he took on the role of Controller at On the Ave, and went on to serve as Controller in the Renaissance Hotel and for Hilton. Raghbar has been with Pod Hotels since 2012, heading the Finance Department for all managed properties. Beyond his financial and accounting acumen, Raghbar is greatly respected for his true sense of hospitality, and exceptional ability to connect with both staff and guests in a sensitive and positive manner.

In his free time, Raghbar enjoys spending time with his four grandchildren and is an avid baseball fan.

Jennifer Estrella

Director of Reservations

Jennifer Estrella

Director of Reservations

Jennifer has been a member of Pod Hotels team since 2008, starting as a Reservations Agent at Pod 51 Hotel. With a dedication for the success and growth of the Pod brand, Jennifer has also taken on roles at the front desk, as Manager of the Reservation and Sales Department at Pod 39, and in Accounting. In 2017, asvPod Hotels expanded to four New York City properties, Jennifer was promoted to Director of Reservations for a newly formed central reservations team. In this role, she brings a wealth of historical brand knowledge as well as keen insight into the New York City market. She was instrumental in the successful launch of Pod Brooklyn in October 2017 and Pod Times Square in January 2018.

Jennifer began her career in the hospitality industry at the Doubletree Walt Disney resort as a front desk agent and concierge. She studied Business Management at Baruch College and Hospitality at City Tech. In her free time, she enjoys going to the gym, dog sitting, dancing, taking memorable photos, and is a foodie.