At press time, Schulze had five Solís hotels in progress and was in negotiations on several more. Capella has five properties under construction, with more in development. But since none of these new hotels is actually up and running yet (the first Solís will open in Chicago in September; the first Capella in Castlemartyr, Ireland, in December), Schulze can only point to his experienced management team, to his track record at Ritz-Carlton, and to the more than $1 billion in investment capital already committed to the company as evidence that there's no doubt in his mind that both brands will go on to become wildly successful.

"The idea that we won't succeed is impossible," he says matter-of-factly. "The only question is how long it will take."

Industry analysts say Schulze is unveiling the right product at the right time. After weathering the three-year downturn that followed the events of September 11, the hotel industry is hot again, with investors sinking billions into new and existing properties. The trade publications are talking about "record levels of activity," and it's the luxury segment of the industry that's leading the pack.

"The time is right," concurs R. Mark Woodworth of PKF Consulting, a research firm specializing in the lodging industry. "I definitely believe there's room for a new hotel player at the highest levels of luxury."

"Horst has been doing his homework for years," chimes in Gene Ference, president of HVS/the Ference Group. "He and his executives, many of whom came from Ritz-Carlton, have everything it takes for success."

And how do Schulze's competitors feel about all this? One can only guess, because no one's talking. When asked to comment on Schulze's plans, the corporate offices at Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, Aman Resorts, Le Meridien, Marriott (which now owns Ritz-Carlton), and Ritz-Carlton all said they'd prefer not to comment, other than to say, "We wish him well." (And some didn't even say that.)

You can almost see Schulze, who is 65, rubbing his hands together, dying to start getting heads into beds. For the time being, though, he's traveling the globe (he's flown close to 500,000 miles in the last three years), calling on banks and investors, and working on real-estate deals.

"Once we have an infrastructure of developers on board," he explains, "I can go back to actual operations. Right now I'm like a fish out of water. What I love is the daily business, the service. And I love making a profit."

But he's careful to qualify that last comment. "Many hotel companies believe the way to make money is by cutting costs," he says. "I prefer to do it by creating ­excellence."