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40 UNDER 40: Otherworldly

Michael Zhu, Vice President, Operations Planning & Analysis, The Innovation Group

40 UNDER 40: Otherworldly

Michael Zhu’s passion for the hospitality industry was ignited while he was a student ambassador, during his undergraduate education, at Peking University’s Joint International Study and Exchange Programs. His roles as an ambassador allowed him to interact with a varied set of stakeholders and leaders within the Ivy League schools, and other prestigious universities around the globe.

The hospitality nature of the ambassadorship sparked his interested in the industry, which has continued to this day. Powered by the achievements in China and in his pursuit of career development on a global landscape, Zhu attended the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University, where he earned his M.B.A. in hospitality management.

With his cultural background based in China and philosophical understanding of the leisure industry from his undergraduate studies, Zhu found gaming to be such an exceptional sector that he has been focusing his professional enthusiasm on the industry.

Zhu’s journey in the gaming industry began with the Las Vegas Sands Corp., where he implemented his analytical and critical thinking skill set in strategic planning, business analysis, financial modeling and operational optimization. His philosophical way of gaming analysis was reflected in the opening of several integrated resorts (IRs) in the Asia-Pacific region, including Sands China’s Cotai IR properties in Macau and Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

The critical thinking and professional experience had served Zhu well when he accepted a position at the Innovation Group in early 2014. Based in the firm’s Denver Office, he is currently vice president of operations planning and analysis, and has been utilizing his 15-plus years of previous work experience in related sectors to become an invaluable member of the team.

Given his unique perspective, understanding and experience in the Asia-Pacific markets, Zhu’s main focus has been on large-scale IR development and operations in the region—an outstanding growth sector for the Innovation Group. Since joining the company, he has stepped into a leadership role in the Denver Office and has brought his operational and financial expertise to an analytical company, allowing the Innovation Group to offer more diverse services to its clients.

“Interest makes you enjoy what you do, but passion enables you to make things better” is what Zhu would like to share with fellow professionals in the gaming industry. He has particularly been passionate about the IR competitive atmosphere in Asia and the IRs with unique ethnic background and cultural elements.

The philosophical pursuit of gaming development and operations enable Zhu to continue his knowledge and expertise in the international markets for the Innovation Group.

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