Was The London Ritz Just Bought by a Qatari Billionaire?

Was The London Ritz Just Bought by a Qatari Billionaire?

London’s world-renowned Ritz hotel has been sold to a Qatari investor for £700 million, ending more than a century of British ownership – and fuelling a family feud between its billionaire owners.

The buyer’s identity is being kept private while The Ritz is in lockdown, but it is understood that Sheikh Hamad Bin-Jaber al-Thani – Qatar’s former prime minister and a business associate of the hotel’s owners, Sir Frederick and Sir David Barclay – was a bidder in the closing stages of the auction.

Sheikh Hamad, 60, was dubbed ‘the man who bought London’ while the head of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund between 2007 and 2013, snapping up trophy assets such as Harrods and The Shard.

The sheikh bought a Belgravia mansion from Sir Frederick and Sir David for an estimated £150 million in 2016.

The previous year, he bought a controlling stake in the Maybourne hotel group that owns London’s Claridge’s, Berkeley and Connaught from the twins.

Macfarlanes, the City law firm that advised the Barclays on the sale, said the buyer was ‘one of its private Qatari investor clients’. Macfarlanes represented Sheikh Hamad in a human rights dispute four years ago.

The deal for The Ritz was led by Sir David’s sons Aidan, Howard and Alistair Barclay, who own 75 per cent of the hotel.

But Sir Frederick, whose daughter Amanda owns the remaining 25 per cent, said he was ‘surprised and perturbed’ by the development.

Earlier this month, Sir Frederick threatened to sue members of his family if The Ritz was sold for less than £1 billion.

He said the deal ‘appears to have been pushed through in the middle of the coronavirus crisis in the hope it will be uncontested’.

Sir Frederick added: ‘We have neither consulted nor have we approved this sale.

‘Any potential purchaser will face significant litigation if this deal is not approved by all sides.’

A spokesman for Ellerman, the investment firm controlled by Aidan and Howard Barclay, said yesterday: ‘Neither Sir Frederick nor Amanda Barclay have any relevant legal interest which would allow them to disrupt the sale.’

The Ritz was opened in 1906 by Swiss hotelier Cesar Ritz and the name quickly became a byword for grandeur. The Grade II listed hotel has a casino and the famous Palm Court tea room, while suites cost up to £5,450 a night.

Sir Frederick and Sir David paid £75 million for the hotel in 1995. It was put up for sale last October as part of a restructure of the family’s business empire, which also include the Telegraph newspapers and the Very Group retail business.

It is not known whether other Qatari investors were on the shortlist of bidders for the hotel.

Saudi investment firm Sidra Capital and French billionaire Bernard Arnault, the owner of the luxury goods empire behind Louis Vuitton handbags and Moet champagne, also got through to the closing stages of the auction.

A statement from the Qatari investor said the first priority was to look after the hotel’s 450 staff while it was in lockdown.

It added: ‘We look forward to reopening the hotel and to sharing our longer-term plans.’

Ellerman said: ‘We are pleased to have agreed a sale of The Ritz that secures great value for all shareholders, following a rigorous process led by independent advisers.’

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