by HUI-YONG YU & TOM METCALF / BLOOMBERG
Sahara India Pariwar, the majority owner of New York’s (NY) Plaza Hotel, is renewing efforts to find a buyer for the chateau-like property on Central Park following the recent sale of a minority stake in the building.
Sahara, based in Lucknow, India, has hired brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle Inc to handle the sales process. “We do have the listing for the Plaza,” said Jeff Davis, international director at JLL, who heads the NY office of the firm’s hotels and hospitality group. He declined to comment further.
The sales process comes after Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp acquired a stake in the hotel, giving it certain rights to buy the property, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. Ashkenazy bought its stake from another minority shareholder, Saudi Prince Alwaleed Talal, according to the person.
Ashkenazy, Sahara India Pariwar and Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding Co didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. JLL’s hiring was reported earlier on Tuesday by the Wall Street Journal.
The current ownership drama, which has been playing out over the past three years, is in keeping with the changes the hotel has seen over its 110-year history.
The Plaza, located on Fifth Avenue, is a NY icon and has witnessed many famous events over the years, from the signing of the Plaza Accord, which devalued the dollar in 1985, to the wedding of US President Donald Trump, who once owned the hotel, to his second wife, Marla Maples. The Plaza also was the fictional home of children’s book heroine Eloise.
A previous owner converted part of the Plaza to condominiums. The hotel is managed by Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, a unit of France’s Accor SA.
Sahara, controlled by chairman Subrata Roy, has been trying to find a buyer for the Plaza for more than two years as he fights allegations of defrauding investors and faces pressure from the Indian government to raise funds. Roy was imprisoned in India in 2014 in connection with the charges, and Sahara defaulted on debt on the Plaza and two related properties.
The default prompted billionaire brothers David and Simon Reuben to buy the debt and try to auction the Plaza early last year. The auction was canceled after a debt extension was negotiated. The Qatar Investment Authority was one of the parties that explored a purchase of the Plaza in 2016.
Ashkenazy said in July it bought London’s Grosvenor House hotel and disclosed its stake in the Plaza. Ashkenazy is in a position to wind up with control of the Plaza if Sahara isn’t able to meet certain conditions or find a buyer for its interest, said the person with knowledge of the situation. — Bloomberg