More over Conrad Hilton. And you, too, Donald Trump. It appears that a new member may be joining the growing coterie of individuals and consortiums who have called themselves owners of New York’s 1907 landmark, The Plaza Hotel.
Sahara Group, the India-based conglomerate that bought a majority stake in the hotel in 2012, has hired a broker to sell their share in the showpiece Fifth Avenue property, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Talk of Sahara’s plans to unload the Plaza has swirled through international real estate and investment circles for several years. But this is the first time a broker is believed to be in the picture, an indication that Sahara may be serious about parting with what may be New York’s ultimate trophy hotel, if location, pedigree and fame are the key qualifications.
While there’s no word on who is zeroing in for the kill, those who have expressed interest in the Plaza cover a waterfront of wealth from predictable to flashy. Prominent candidates are said to include a Shanghai municipal investment fund, a Qatari sovereign-wealth fund and hip hop musician Pras Michel, the Grammy-winning co-founder of the Fugees.
Whoever captures the castle will need deep pockets. The pivotal figure quoted by lodging experts is around $2 million a room, which adds up just over $560 million for the 282-room hotel. And that’s for rooms that mostly overlook office buildings. The cream of the Plaza’s rooms commanding Central Park views became luxury condominiums when the hotel underwent a massive renovation in 2009. But hey, it’s The Plaza. And bolstering the package are sweeteners, like the thriving Todd English and Plaza food halls, additional restaurants and plentiful retail space. Note to the future owner: it’s time to reopen the Oak Bar, where Cary Grant ordered a drink below one of Everett Shinn’s moody murals before being kidnapped in Alfred Hitckcock’s “North by Northwest.”
It will be interesting to see if the Plaza sells — and at what price. The hotel is undeniably unique. Still, it’s not clear if it will prove impervious to the current slowdown of foreign investment in U.S. real estate, an occurrence brought on by low oil prices that have halted Middle Eastern investors and the Chinese government’s recent crackdown on money flowing overseas.
Indeed, in July it was reported that Chinese authorities had instructed the Anbang Insurance Group to sell off their foreign assets, including their $1.95 billion crown jewel, the Waldorf Astoria. In a statement to the South China Morning Post, Anbang said it had “not received an order like that” and at present had no plans to jettison the Waldorf. (Parts of the hotel currently sport scaffolding aprons, indicating that gut renovations, set to take three years, are underway.)
Which is just as well, if that’s the case. It’s hard to imagine two grande dame New York hotels on the selling block at the same time.