Unite Here union requests data on Anbang ownership

The Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel
China’s Anbang Insurance Company is under pressure from labor union Unite Here to provide shareholder data and management agreement information for three of its hotels.

The hotels in question are the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco, the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel and the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park. Each of these hotels is in the midst of conducting contract negotiations, and Unite Here released a statement expressing concerns that jobs could be lost should Anbang decide to convert portions of these properties into condominiums, the direction the company went in at the historic Waldorf Astoria in New York.

Anbang acquired the three hotels in question in 2016 through its purchase of Strategic Hotels & Resorts from Blackstone Group. The $6.5-billion deal included 16 hotels purchased by Blackstone three months earlier, with only the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego falling out of the deal.

The Westin St. Francis, San Francisco

Anand Singh, president of Unite Here Local 2, wrote in a statement that the organization is seeking answers regarding Anbang’s plans for the hotels. Anbang paid $500 million more for the properties than Blackstone did, with Singh saying the increased price “heightens our concern that Anbang may be seeking an alternative use for some or all of the hotels.”

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Unite Here has made a data request for a “list of all shareholders of Anbang including names, address and percent owned as well as any shareholder agreements or other documents granting one or more individual the right to purchase shares at a future date.” Unite Here is also asking for copies of hotel management agreements and information on potential future condominium conversions.

The request was made via a labor law granting unions access to information on practices that could affect unionized workers.

The Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park

Unite Here represents workers at all three of these properties, but it isn’t the only group pressuring Anbang to open up about its inner workings. The company has been pressured to shed some light on its ownership and finances in light of its property-buying spree, which started in 2014.

In fact, the pressure on Anbang is significant because it is coming from two different directions. The New York Times reported in early May that the China Insurance Regulatory Commission is taking disciplinary measures against Anbang amid fears surrounding China’s financial system and its larger insurance industry. Simultaneously, economists on Wall Street are skeptical about China’s quick accumulation of debt following the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.

“Strategic Hotels & Resorts has no current plans for any condominium conversions and remains committed to working with all its employees to ensure its hotels will remain premier, best-in-class properties and valuable real estate assets,” the company said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg.

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