Former Qatari prime minister acquires Plaza Hotel mortgage

Plaza Hotel New York
Plaza Hotel, New York

As the endless saga of New York's Plaza Hotel sale continues, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin al-Thani, Qatar's former prime minister, has become the new owner of the hotel's mortgage.
Also known as HBJ, the former prime minister became connected to the hotel when he joined Louxembourg's Pinnacle Investments to provide loans to Ashkenazy Acquisition, which bought half of a 25-percent stake in the Plaza from Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal. The Saudi prince was forced to sell a portion of his share when he was placed under house arrest following a government crackdown in Saudi Arabia. As part of the deal, Ashkenazy gained the right of first refusal to acquire the majority stake in the property. 

Ashkenazy later acquired the Grosvenor House in London for $750 million from Subrata Roy's Sahara India Pariwar, which also owned a stake in the Plaza Hotel. Meanwhile, a Pinnacle subsidiary claimed the role of senior lender to the Plaza Hotel, giving HBJ the opportunity to use the mortgage to fund a potential bid for the property. Sandeep Wadwa, head of corporate finance for Sahara India Pariwar, told The Real Deal, “Ashkenazy was able to buy the Grosvenor House and HBJ was willing to buy the mortgage” on the Plaza Hotel and Dream. While other investors bid higher, Al Thani offered “a solution that no other transaction in isolation was giving us.” 

Fewer than 10 bids for a 75-percent stake in the Plaza Hotel have been sent over to Sahara India Pariwar—none of which were sent by Al Thani, Ashkenazy or Alwaleed— Wadhwa explained. “We have a great relationship with the lender Al Thani," he said. "We are very neutral as to whether they buy it or someone else buys it. As long as we get the best price.”

After he was imprisoned in India for allegedly swindling investors, Roy put his remaining Plaza Hotel stake up for sale this summer. Meanwhile, Ashkenazy and Bin Talal partnered to scoop up half of Roy's stake, which comes with $1 billion-worth of loans Simon and David Reuben hold on the Grosvenor, Plaza and Dream hotels. Anyone who acquires one of the hotels must pay off or refinance the loans for all three properties, which are cross-collateralized. 

Multiple previous deals to finally sell The Plaza Hotel failed. In March 2017, Texas-based MG Capital almost put down more than $550 million for the Plaza Hotel before the transaction fell through. Al-Waleed and the Qatar Investment Authority failed to complete a $1.5-billion deal in September 2016. Since 2012, it's been a struggle for Sahara to sell the three hotels to pay India's Supreme Court a fine of Rs25,000 crore, and deposit it with the SEBI market regulator. 

HBJ is not only the owner of the Plaza's mortgage, but also the primary backer of Macklowe Properties' $585-million acquisition of 1 Wall Street. He is an investor in the 432 Park Avenue retail condominium, and holds stakes in London's Once Hyde Park, the Harrods department store, the Shard, the Canary Wharf district and Clardige's. He has also been in talks to invest in the Kushner Companies' 666 Fifth Avenue.