The iconic Ritz Hotel in London's Mayfair has been sold to a Qatari investor for a sum close to £800 mln (€896 mln) by the heirs of the billionaire Barclay brothers.
'It is a privilege to become the owner of the iconic Ritz Hotel and have the opportunity to build on its innate style and grand traditions,' said a spokesperson for the private Qatari fund.
The hotel, which opened in London in 1906, had been at the heart of an ownership dispute between the families of David and Frederick Barclay, the reclusive London property tycoons and owners of The Telegraph newspaper. The deal coincided with the hotel closing its doors for the first time in its history on 27 March. It was reportedly the group's most valuable asset.
While the Barclay brothers are well known for a lifetime of dealmaking, relations had soured in recent years after control over their assets was handed to their heirs, with David's family holding a majority stake.
Frederick and his daughter Amanda took David and his sons to court in February 'over the governance and direction of the group business', following a series of developments, including David's sons taking control of the Ritz and Amanda leaving the hotel's board.
Frederick had reported receiving offers for the Ritz in excess of £1 bn in the past, threatening legal action if it sold for less. He commented at the beginning of the month: 'I take great pride in the Ritz Hotel and its success ever since I personally wrote a £7.5 mln cheque as down payment in 1995.'
A Jeddah-based group, Sidra Capital, was rumoured to be pursuing a deal for £650 mln in early March, with a number of interested parties having viewed the property before lockdown commenced in London.
Following the sale, which a source close to the deal said did not exceed £800 mln, a representative from Frederick told the Financial Times: '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.'
However, public filings show that Amanda's holding in the property did not exceed 25% at time of sale.
'Neither Sir Frederick nor Amanda Barclay have any relevant legal interest which would allow them to disrupt the sale,' said a representative for Ellerman Investments, the Barclay brothers' investment vehicle which owned the hotel.
Observers suggest that the coronavirus crisis was used as a vehicle to rush through the sale. The asset is being divested along with a connecting building that could be used to extend the hotel.
Law firm Macfarlanes represented the Qatari fund, reporting in a statement that it had advised on the purchase.