Sultan of Brunei makes bid for New York’s Plaza Hotel

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NY Plaza HotelThe Sultan of Brunei is making a play for one of the world’s most-storied hotels, people familiar with the matter said. An investment vehicle affiliated with Brunei has offered to pay about $2 billion to acquire New York’s Plaza Hotel as well as London’s Grosvenor House and the Dream Hotel in lower Manhattan, the people said.

The Sultan, along with his luxury-hotel operator, Dorchester Collection, has come under scrutiny for harsh new laws enacted in the southeast Asian Islamic country.

The laws, which include death by stoning for homosexuals and adulterers, have sparked public calls in the US for the company to sell its properties, and have led to a series of boycotts of the Beverly Hills Hotel and Dorchester properties in Europe that have cost millions of dollars in lost revenue, Dorchester has said.

Yet the Sultan’s pursuit of the Plaza and the two other hotels suggests he has no intention of exiting the hospitality business or even lowering his profile amid the controversy.

Dorchester’s London-based chief executive, Christopher Cowdray, said in May that the company’s hotels aren’t bound by Brunei law. “Dorchester Collection abides by the laws of the country in which we operate,” he said.

Brunei’s offer is a leading contender among a handful of potential buyers, including Middle Eastern government funds, bidding on the three properties owned by India’s Sahara Group, a person with knowledge of the process said.

Inside Brunei 2013/14
Inside Brunei 2013/14
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Sahara in 2012 acquired a controlling stake in the Plaza for around $430 million. Saudi billionaire Prince al-Waleed bin Talal owns a 25% stake in the property. It wasn’t clear if he would maintain that stake if Sahara sells.

Brunei officials have been in discussions throughout this summer with representatives of Sahara, the people said. An agreement with a buyer could be reached as early as next month.

Hotel analysts said that if Brunei acquires the Plaza, it could drag the famed hotel into the dispute, potentially damaging its business and reputation.

“Absolutely there would be protests and talks of boycotts, just like in L.A.,” said Sean Hennessey, CEO of Lodging Advisors, a hotel-consulting firm, referring to the actions against the Beverly Hills Hotel.

The Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group, has taken up the cause. The group called on New Yorkers to oppose a sale to Brunei. “We urge all New Yorkers to have one simple and straightforward message for the Sultan: ‘Take your business elsewhere,’ ” it said.

 

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

The Sultan of Brunei is making a play for one of the world’s most-storied hotels, people familiar with the matter said. An investment vehicle affiliated with Brunei has offered to pay about $2 billion to acquire New York’s Plaza Hotel as well as London’s Grosvenor House and the Dream Hotel in lower Manhattan, the people said.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

NY Plaza HotelThe Sultan of Brunei is making a play for one of the world’s most-storied hotels, people familiar with the matter said. An investment vehicle affiliated with Brunei has offered to pay about $2 billion to acquire New York’s Plaza Hotel as well as London’s Grosvenor House and the Dream Hotel in lower Manhattan, the people said.

The Sultan, along with his luxury-hotel operator, Dorchester Collection, has come under scrutiny for harsh new laws enacted in the southeast Asian Islamic country.

The laws, which include death by stoning for homosexuals and adulterers, have sparked public calls in the US for the company to sell its properties, and have led to a series of boycotts of the Beverly Hills Hotel and Dorchester properties in Europe that have cost millions of dollars in lost revenue, Dorchester has said.

Yet the Sultan’s pursuit of the Plaza and the two other hotels suggests he has no intention of exiting the hospitality business or even lowering his profile amid the controversy.

Dorchester’s London-based chief executive, Christopher Cowdray, said in May that the company’s hotels aren’t bound by Brunei law. “Dorchester Collection abides by the laws of the country in which we operate,” he said.

Brunei’s offer is a leading contender among a handful of potential buyers, including Middle Eastern government funds, bidding on the three properties owned by India’s Sahara Group, a person with knowledge of the process said.

Inside Brunei 2013/14
Inside Brunei 2013/14
Buy now and get 42 page Brunei 2012 report FREE
$19.95

Sahara in 2012 acquired a controlling stake in the Plaza for around $430 million. Saudi billionaire Prince al-Waleed bin Talal owns a 25% stake in the property. It wasn’t clear if he would maintain that stake if Sahara sells.

Brunei officials have been in discussions throughout this summer with representatives of Sahara, the people said. An agreement with a buyer could be reached as early as next month.

Hotel analysts said that if Brunei acquires the Plaza, it could drag the famed hotel into the dispute, potentially damaging its business and reputation.

“Absolutely there would be protests and talks of boycotts, just like in L.A.,” said Sean Hennessey, CEO of Lodging Advisors, a hotel-consulting firm, referring to the actions against the Beverly Hills Hotel.

The Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group, has taken up the cause. The group called on New Yorkers to oppose a sale to Brunei. “We urge all New Yorkers to have one simple and straightforward message for the Sultan: ‘Take your business elsewhere,’ ” it said.

 

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