The Aldrovandi Villa Borghese in Rome. Source: Aldrovandi Villa Borghese
The Aldrovandi Villa Borghese in Rome. Source: Aldrovandi Villa Borghese

A Dubai ruler may shake things up in Europe's hotel industry

By Ercan Ersoy , Dinesh Nair and Asli Kandemir Time of article published Jan 16, 2019

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Turkish billionaire Ferit Sahenk is in talks to sell some of Europe’s most famous luxury hotels to the investment firm owned by Dubai’s ruler as part of a debt restructuring, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The discussions involve properties including the historic Capri Palace in Italy, the Aldrovandi Villa Borghese in Rome and Istanbul’s Grand Hyatt, the people said, asking not to be identified because the talks are private.

Dubai Holding is doing due diligence on the Capri Palace and Aldrovandi, one of the people said. The firm, one of three main state holding companies in the emirate, owns Jumeirah Group, which would likely operate the hotels, the person said.

Sahenk’s Dogus Holding AS, which owns the hotels, declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Dubai Holding, controlled by Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Sahenk, once Turkey’s richest man, spent heavily on hospitality businesses at home and overseas after selling his 31 percent stake in Turkiye Garanti Bankasi AS for almost $5.5 billion. His company has sought buyers for its trophy hotels for several months, people familiar with its plans have previously said, amid growing concern that the plunge in the lira will make it harder for Turkish firms to secure new foreign debt.

In December, Dogus Holding struck a deal with a group of mostly local banks to restructure part of its borrowings. Those talks involved about $2.5 billion of loans, people familiar with the plan had said in April. The process was delayed after the lenders demanded the company sell some of its assets, Moody’s Investors Service said on Dec. 6.

Hotel Sales

Dogus agreed in November to sell Madrid’s Villa Magna hotel to Mexico’s RLH Properties SAB de CV for 210 million euros ($241 million), and earlier last year agreed to sell a 17 percent stake in its restaurant business, which includes the Zuma and Nusr-Et chains, for $200 million. 

It also sold a 25 percent stake in D-Marinas BV, which has 10 marinas in Turkey, Greece and Croatia, to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for 70 million euros in May.

For Dubai Holding, the hotels acquisition would mark a shift back to dealmaking for an investment firm that’s mostly been focused on selling assets and restructuring debt in the wake of the emirate’s property-led crisis. Jumeirah Group already operates luxury hotels in London, the Maldives and Mallorca.

Dubai Holding has done business with Dogus before. In November, the firm and Meraas Holding LLC, a Dubai-based property developer, signed an agreement that will see an arm of Dogus operate marinas in the emirate.


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