Famed for its teas, London’s Ritz hotel has been sold for the third time in its 114 year history, in a deal some expect was rushed under the cover of coronavirus.
An unnamed Qatari investor has bought the iconic hotel from the billionaire Barclay brothers. The deal coincided with the hotel closing its doors for the first time in its entire history on Friday (March 27), as coronavirus hit London’s hospitality sector.
The Qatari buyer said, “It is a privilege to become the owner of the iconic Ritz Hotel,” in a statement from Macfarlanes who advised on the acquisition. However, one of the Barclay brothers is disputing the hotel was sold at all.
“We are surprised and perturbed by the announcement the Ritz hotel has allegedly been sold. We have neither been consulted nor have we approved this sale,” a representative from Sir Frederick Barclay told the Financial Times.
There is already a family feud taking place between the respective children of Sir Frederick and Sir David Barclay, identical twins worth $3.7 billion who live in a castle built on their own island in the English Channel.
Their fortune, and ownership of the Ritz, has been split between Sir Frederick’s daughter, Amanda, and Sir David’s sons, Aidan, Howard and Alistair. But in a scandal that sounds like it is straight out of HBO’s Succession, Sir Frederick and Amanda have brought legal proceedings against Aidan, Howard and Alistair for allegedly bugging their family meetings in the Ritz.
Previously Sir Frederick, normally the quieter of the notoriously reclusive twins, said that he would sue other members of the family if the hotel were sold for anything less than £1 billion ($1.2 billion).
Although no price was given, people close to the deal say the Qatari investor paid between £800 million and £1 billion ($975 million and £1.2 billion) for the Ritz.
The hotel, which includes three restaurants and the Ritz Casino, was first put on the market in October 2019 for £800 million ($975 million) and attracted initial interest from Saudi Arabia’s Sidra Capital and Bernard Arnault‘s LVMH.
Though it is one of London’s more famous landmarks with a rich history, the closing of such a large deal in less than five months and during one of the world’s worst economic shocks is unusual. “Sadly we cannot get away from the fact that this deal, if it has occurred, appears to have been pushed through in the middle of the coronavirus crisis in the hope that it will be uncontested,” Sir Frederick’s spokesperson said.
Who Are The New Owners Of The Ritz?
The news that a Qatari has bought a London landmark will surprise few in a city where buildings are frequently snapped up by Middle Eastern investors.
The Qatar Investment Authority already owns Harrods, London’s most iconic shop as well as Canary Wharf, its financial district. Qatar National Bank, QInvest, Qatari Islamic Bank and the Qatari property developer Barwa Real Estate financed the building of the Shard, London’s tallest building, and Qatari Diar owns London’s Olympic village.
However, the sale of the Ritz to a Qatari will come as a surprise. Between 2011 and 2015, the Barclay brothers were locked in a legal battle over the ownership of three other London landmarks: Claridges, the Berkeley and the Connaught. Their opponent and now the majority owner was none other than the Qatar Investment Authority.
With their empire being cut up all eyes will be on other assets owned by the Barclay brothers. Already hawks are circling the Telegraph Newspaper Group.