Other hotels in the portfolio include New York’s Plaza Hotel and Dream Hotel, and the three properties are being sold by India’s Sahara Group, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cites “people familiar with the matter”.
Sahara’s founder and chairman Subrata Roy has been negotiating the deal from a prison cell in New Dehli, where he was sent on allegations of unpaid debts to the company’s stakeholders – which he denies.
Brunei’s purchase of the Grosvenor House would be likely to cause further outcry, after Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah caused controversy last April by enacting a law punishing homosexuals and adulterers with death by stoning in his Asian Islamic country.
The law sparked public outrage and led to the boycott of Dorchester Collection hotels both in the US and in the UK.
The brand’s Beverly Hills hotel was the hardest-hit, losing US$1.5m of business as celebrities very publicly boycotted the venue, and in the UK Stephen Fry announced on Twitter that he was cancelling his visit at Coworth Park after learning it was part of the collection.
Airline tycoon Richard Branson also banned all his staff from staying at Dorchester Collection hotels “until the sultan abides by basic human right”.
Impact on staff
Back in May, The Dorchester Collection’s UK-based chief executive Christopher Cowdray told BigHospitality the losses were affecting the hotels’ ‘loyal staff’, but vowed to protect jobs in an interview with HR Magazine.
He called for perspective in a statement that said The Dorchester Collection abides by the laws of the countries in which it operates, adding that most of the brands we use on a daily basis are owned by foreign investors, but that ownership doesn’t define management practices.
The Sultan has faced pressure to either withdraw the law or sell his existing properties, but the Wall Street Journal’s article suggests he has no intention of moving away from the hotel business, ‘or even lowering his profile amidst controversy’.