Leon Avigad’s business card bears three short words: “Bulldozer. Storyteller. Empresario.” It’s a fitting calling card for the Israeli hotel developer, whose wildly creative properties have launched an urban-chic renaissance among Tel Aviv’s once staid lodging scene. Avigad, who founded the Leopard boutique hotel development firm in 2003 after two decades of managing other people’s properties, doesn’t like to play by the rules. Why carry a business card that lists just a name and title when he can do something a little bit radical? With his hotels, Avigad says, he bulldozes and storytells all day.
Avigad, along with his partner Nitzan Perry, is an unabashed Francophile with a similar passion for America. His career trajectory reads like a standard ladder-climbing story, until you toss out the details: born in Tel Aviv, he got his start as bellboy at Jerusalem’s legendary King David, the five-star, British-Mandate-era monolith that has played host to kings, presidents, and no shortage of Israeli history. He then moved to concierge, shift leader and, after jumping ship to a competitor property, eventually became general manager.