Written by Staff Writer
07 Oct, 2014 | 11:38 am
Hilton Worldwide is selling the Waldorf-Astoria, a landmark hotel that has epitomized luxury for generations of visitors to New York, to a Chinese insurance company for $1.95 billion.
The buyer, Anbang Insurance Group, plans a renovation of the hotel on Park Avenue, to restore the 47-story tower to its Art Deco grandeur.
The hotel’s gold doorknobs, lavish rooms, artwork, furniture and chandeliers with a cascade of silver and crystal pendants prompted President Herbert Hoover to describe the 1931 opening of the Waldorf-Astoria as “an event in the advancement of hotels, even in New York City.”
Hilton, which owns, controls or franchises more than 4,200 properties, will continue to operate the 1,413-room hotel under a 100-year management contract with Anbang.
“The Chinese have money to spend and the inclination to do so,” said Sean Hennessey, chief executive of Lodging Advisors, which was not involved in the deal. “The property will continue to be an iconic hotel even if it’s owned by a foreign entity.”
The Waldorf-Astoria is the flagship for a luxury chain – Waldorf-Astoria Hotels & Resorts – created in 2007, with properties in Amsterdam; Beijing; Jerusalem, Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates; and Shanghai.
By selling the Waldorf-Astoria New York, Hilton Worldwide accumulates a war chest with which to purchase other hotels. But in order to make money, hotels analysts speculate that Anbang may consider selling condominiums in Waldorf Towers, a small, boutique-like operation that is somewhat separate from the main hotel.
“This relationship represents a unique opportunity for our organizations to work together to finally maximize the full value of this iconic asset on a full city block in Midtown Manhattan,” Christopher J. Nassetta, president and chief executive of Hilton Worldwide, said in a statement released Monday morning.
The original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel was built on a parcel now occupied by the Empire State Building. A second Waldorf-Astoria was built farther north, over the tracks leading to Grand Central Terminal. For many years it was the tallest and largest hotel in the world.
The Waldorf-Astoria was an object of desire for Conrad Hilton from the day it opened, when he scrawled “The Greatest of Them All,” across a newspaper photograph of the hotel. Fifteen years later, in October 1949, he bought the hotel and made it one of his own.
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