• Credit: Henry Roy

Nine Brains is a hospitality-focused investment and advisory firm devoted to elevating the experience of hotel, resort, and private club real estate.

The Nine Brains team, jointly its principals, advisors, and strategic partners, form a best-in-class collective that draw from their deep experience in lifestyle hospitality investment and development, real estate sales and membership operations, and creative/design services.

“Give experience your energy and like any living process it divides and grows. The deliberate wish to "live" takes over from the day-to-day accident formerly called life.”
– Mark Greif

INVESTMENT & DEVELOPMENT

Nine Brains targets existing value-add hotels and resorts in destination markets and special-situation development opportunities. We look to apply our unique creative and management experience to generate superior risk-adjusted returns, with a primary focus in Hawaii.

“It takes forming a relationship with a place to imagine a future there. And, nothing generates brand love like moving the human spirit. That is what transforms a guest into an advocate, creating enduring value for a venture, outpacing any other predictor of a project’s success.”

ADVISORY

Nine Brains advises select experientially-driven companies and real estate projects. Our team can address specific challenges including project strategy & asset management, project envisioning & placemaking, and property lifestyle activation & membership operations.

“Why do people go to these destinations in the first place? The adventure thing has gotten twisted, it’s a relative term. Meaningful, memorable experiences are different. They build an affinity that only such an experience can create. And they turn a repeat guest into a perspective real estate buyer.”

TEAM

James Evans
Managing Partner
Investments
Thibert Lussiaa
Managing Partner
Operations and Placemaking
Ali Al-Faraj
Principal
Emily Plantier
Associate

ADVISORS

Sam Ainslie
Advisor
Development Strategy
Erika Alm
Advisor
Real Estate Sales & Marketing
Raimana Van Bastolaer
Advisor
Lifestyle
Omar Sosa
Advisor
Art Direction, Design

PROJECTS

Nine Brain’s select investment, advisory, and past partner experience includes:

INVESTMENTS

Big Island, Hawaii. Opening 2023. Nine Brains is repositioning a 125-key hotel on the Big Island targeting the millennially minded traveler. We have reinvisioned the property to combine contemporary design and opportunities for authentic, locally relevant experiences.

ADVISORY

Kelly Slater Wave Co. Nine Brains is an executive advisor to the Kelly Slater Wave Co., working to develop its multi-property brand and operating platform, as well as business development.

PARTNER EXPERIENCE

Nine Brains partner's past experience includes iconic projects such as Kukio Golf and Beach Club, Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Kona Village - a Rosewood Resort, Kohanaiki Private Club Community, Makena Golf & Beach Club, and the Surf Ranch, Lemoore.

Get in Touch With Us

James Evans, Managing Partner

Investments

James Evans loves the perspective and learning that come from exploring places, and he sees an opportunity to shift the hospitality industry in a direction that’s better for people and that drives economic success. “I believe creative leverage is the most powerful type of leverage today—more so than financial or other historical systems of creating opportunity, because if we capture someone’s heart, that generates more long term value than any sales tactic can.”

Evans has an international perspective—shaped in part by his travels, time spent living in Colombia, and working extensively in Hawaii—and a background that bridges brand creation, hospitality, development, and institutional investment.

Before founding Nine Brains, Evans was vice president at Kennedy Wilson (NSE: KW) where he oversaw the US retail portfolio and asset managed the firm's resort and private club developments on the Big Island of Hawaii. Previously, Evans was the chief operating officer of a Colombia-based hotel and development firm that included The Charlee hotel brand.

Thibert Lussiaa, Managing Partner

Operations and Placemaking

“What is your purpose, what is your strength?” Adventure, accomplishment, connection with nature—Thibert Lussiaa creates the intangible magic that open peoples hearts to the unknown and fuels their souls. Born in Tahiti and recognized as one of the top paddlers in the world, Lussiaa’s love of the ocean and outdoor sports has informed his wide-ranging hospitality roles at premier private club projects. His remarkably motivating influence extends heartfelt connection and a culture of wellness to staff and guests, building bonds to places and people. Lussiaa’s world is one of magical experiences.

As a Managing Partner at Nine Brains, Thibert is critical to developing the firm's overall strategy and growth. Furthermore, Thibert leverages his decades of placemaking and operations background throughout project's lifecycles to create differentiated experiences from design through check-in.

Ali Al-Faraj

Principal

As a Principal at Nine Brains, Ali is responsible for overseeing the firm's advisory platform and investment originations targeting the West Coast.

Ali Al-Faraj is no stranger when it comes to the world of international travel and exploration. Having lived and worked in the US, Middle East, SE Asia, and UK, Ali understands the intrinsic value of travel and culture. Much of his Kuwaiti and Italian identity centered around hospitality and has always been a major component to Ali’s upbringing.

Ali’s background includes equity placement for institutional real estate managers, fund management, and business development. Prior to Nine Brains, Ali worked at Kennedy Wilson (NYSE: KW) in the fund management and capital markets group in both the US and U.K. offices. During his work across the company, Ali raised more than $500m of equity for the various fund and direct investment platforms.

Emily Plantier

Associate

Emily Plantier believes that hospitality is engrained in every aspect of life and business, and that one of the true measures of success for a hospitality product is the strength of its connection to the community and its people.

As an Associate at Nine Brains, Plantier supports the team across its investment and advisory platforms. Prior to joining Nine Brains, Plantier was an Analyst at Canyon Equity where she assisted in asset managing the group’s award-winning, ultra-luxury resort portfolio. Plantier is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration.

Sam Ainslie, Advisor

Development Strategy

When those in the know think of the exemplar of luxury real estate development, Sam Ainslie surely comes to mind. His 25-year tenure in the development industry includes deep experience in resorts, golf courses, and residential real estate, in some of the world’s finest locations. A world traveler and triathlete, Ainslie has an unparalleled ability to connect with people’s hearts and souls and nurture their talents. He believes that the essence of what people want in their lives is meaningful, challenging, experiences. Despite his history of professional accomplishment, Ainslie reflects: “It is play, more than anything else, that has shaped my life.”

Erika Alm, Advisor

Real Estate Sales & Marketing

Erika Alm has established an international track record, leading sales efforts on behalf of some of the most renowned resort and private club developments around the globe. What keeps her passionate, though, is the value she brings to clients when a project is not just a transaction, but a chance for them to transform. “It's amazing the impact you can have by bringing someone out of their comfort zone and into a new place, whether a location, a connection to a person or community, or a state of mind. I have seen that happen in resort developments and it’s pretty powerful. People have a tremendous capacity for growth.” Alm has shown that when you find the connection between the spirit of the client and the spirit of the project, the real estate follows.

Raimana Van Bastolaer, Advisor

Lifestyle

When the world’s best surfers hope to find themselves deep in the epically heavy barrel of Teahupoʻo, Tahiti, it’s Raimana’s judgment that they trust. Representing the truth of his home break and Tahitian culture is a calling that Raimana has ridden to renown, hosting surf pros like Kelly Slater, Laird Hamilton, and John John Florence; actors like Julia Roberts; and entire film crews looking for the perfect ocean action shot. “It’s not just the waves, it’s not just the surfing,” Raimana, in his French-accented mirth, told Surfer Magazine in 2015. “People can go find waves all over, cold, warm, crowded, empty, whatever. But how we host people." The true magic of Raimana lies in that role of host - how to make people feel welcome and grounded when they're searching for something still unfound.

Omar Sosa, Advisor

Art Direction, Design

Art director, editor and publisher Omar Sosa has more than 15 years of experience in the world of design. As a co-founder of Apartamento—which The New York Times has called “the design movement’s official international look book”—he rejected the idealized representation of elegant spaces in favor of images that communicate the beautiful imperfection of real life. Sosa is the co-founder of Apartamento Studios, a design consultancy with offices in Barcelona and New York City. Sosa’s expertise includes art direction, branding, creative strategy, digital, environmental design, and publishing. Clients of Apartamento Studios are global design, media, fashion, and beauty brands including A.P.C., Burberry, Calvin Klein, Carolina Herrera, Clinique, Condé Nast, Diesel, Flos, Jean Paul Gaultier, Iittala, Loewe, Nike, Poliform, Rimowa, and Vitra.