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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Saturday, September 23, 2017

Yet another chapter opens in the ongoing drama around the sale of the Plaza Hotel. The hotel’s current majority owner, Sahara Group, has taken steps to finally sell the property after years of almost selling the hotel but never finalizing any deal, the company has hired a broker to market the iconic building. 

Curbed provides a concise summary of the property’s recent history in an article last week. The paper states, “Let’s revisit how the hotel got here: It’s had many owners over the years, including the Hilton clan and current president Donald Trump; El-Ad purchased it in 2004, and led the conversion of more than 100 of its hotel rooms into luxury condos. In 2012, Sahara Group purchased a majority stake in the company, valuing it at about $575 million. But things spun out of control quickly for the firm and its president, Subrata Roy; after defaulting on loans, Roy was imprisoned in India, and Sahara was said to be shopping the hotel around to help get him out of jail. (WSJ says he’s been out on parole since 2016.)”

There are many other twists and turns in this saga, but it seems that Sahara is finally prepared to part ways with the Plaza Hotel. Consulting firm Lodging Advisors’ CEO Sean Hennessey said that Sahara hiring a broker for the property.” Even though prior attempts by potential buyers, like Fugees’ Pras Michel, to purchase the property have never fully came to fruition, this should now all change with the involvement of JLL Hotels and Hospitality Group.

JLL’s international director Jeffrey Davis, who is managing the bidding on the Plaza, said, “We’ll solicit bids. It’s the most iconic real estate asset in the world. It’ll garner international attention.”

While the Sahara seems prepared to finally sell, New York investment and development company Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation and Prince al-Waleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia, who hold a combined 25 percent stake in the hotel, have other plans for the property.

The New York Times reports, “The prince, who has been an owner of the hotel since 1995, formed a partnership with Ashkenazy earlier this year to buy out Mr. Roy and restore the Plaza to its five-star grandeur. Under the ownership agreement, the partners have the right to match any offer for the hotel and to take it over, according to real estate executives who have been briefed on the agreement and who spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to disclose the details.”

The chief executive of the prince’s company, Kingdom Hotel Investments, Sarmad Zok said, “We are not selling our stake and are comfortable with our rights relating to any sale by others. We are proud to have partnered with Ashkenazy to reinstate the glory of this unique asset.”

An extensive modernization program is in the partners plans, to better equip the Plaza to compete with other five-star Manhattan hotels. They also plan to open parts of the hotel that have been closed for renovations for years, including the infamous Oak Room and the wood-paneled Oak Room Bar, which have been closed for six years now. 

Although it’s not the highest ever valued hotel to go on the market in New York City, The Wall Street Journal reports that it could be worth as much as $560 million. The priciest sale ever is held by the Waldorf Astoria, which was sold by the Hilton for $1.95 billion to the Chinese developer Anbang. Similarly, to the Plaza, the Waldorf Astoria is in the process of converting hundreds of its rooms into condos.

 By Mark Snyder