Sultan of Brunei seeks ownership of New York’s Plaza Hotel

Jose Castro – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

New York, NY, United States (4E) – The Sultan of Brunei, one of the richest men on the planet, is now in the process of putting together a bid for one of the most iconic hotels in the world, the Plaza Hotel in New York. The exploratory bid was made through an investment office with close ties to the Brunei royal family. The bid was in the range of USD2 billion for the Plaza Hotel, together with the Grosvenor House in London and the Dream Hotel in Lower Manhattan.

The Sultan has been under fire for the new laws that have been enacted in his home country. These laws include imposing the sentence of death upon adulterers and homosexuals. As such, the Sultan and his luxury hotel operator Dorchester Collection, have been urged to divest their property holdings in the US.

There have been boycotts made in other properties owned by the group such as the Beverly Hills Hotel and other European luxury hotel properties under the ownership of Dorchester. This has resulted in millions of dollars worth of lost revenue for the hotels and their owners.

Under the proposed bid, the Sultan would manage the day to day operations of the hotels through Dorchester. The controlling ownership would be with two other investors who currently have an interest in the hotel, one of them being Sean Hennessey, the CEO of Lodging Investment Advisors.

The current owner of the Plaza Hotel, Indian tycoon Subrata Roy has made divestment of these assets as a top priority, in light of the legal issues he has in India. He is now in jail and is hoping the sale would cover the USD1.6 billion bond required of him for his temporary liberty.

In response to his critics, the Sultan said last May, “The decision to implement the (Shariah Penal Code) is not for fun but is to obey Allah’s command as written in the Koran.” He added, “By the grace of Allah, with the coming into effect of this legislation, our duty to Allah is therefore being fulfilled.” He then lauded the policy as ‘a great achievement’.

Dorchester CEO Christopher Cowdray last May said that their hotels aren’t covered by Brunei law. He declared, “Dorchester Collection abides by the laws of the country in which we operate.”

According to the law, it would apply to the Muslims that comprise two thirds of Brunei’s population totaling 420,000. The others comprise other beliefs such as Buddhist, Christina and indigenous faiths.

One of the main advocates against the policy is the Human Rights Campaign amongst them Ty Cobb, who said, “We urge all New Yorkers to have one simple and straight-forward message for the Sultan: take your business elsewhere.”

The Plaza Hotel has been in operation for over a century and is considered as one of the most famous hotels in the country. It has gone through a myriad of changes, including a decrease in hotel rooms as some of the units have been sold off as condominium units for affluent buyers. The hotel has either been the backdrop or the actual setting of many movies throughout the years.

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