Wang Jianlin, the richest man in China and the owner of Dalian Wanda Group, is looking to buy hotels in the United States.
“It’s part of a larger trend,” said James Macdonald, head of the China research firm Savills Plc in Shanghai, “Chinese companies are starting to look at diversifying out of China and bringing intelligence and market experience from operating overseas back to the China market. It’s also about taking experience of the China market overseas to try to get the best of both worlds.” Wang’s ambitions may be thwarted, however, by the limited availability of big luxury names currently on the market.
Several analysts say that the Four Seasons, which owns 91 luxury properties in 38 countries and with a world-renowned New York Location, is the perfect match for what Wang wants to achieve. But Sorya Gaulin, a spokeswoman for Four Seasons, declined to comment when asked if the company would be willing to sell. The Four Seasons is owned by Bill Gates’s Cascade Investment LLC, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding Co., and Four Seasons founder Isadore Sharp. If Wang can’t get them to sell, he will have to look into other options. Industry insiders think these brands are likely to attract his attention:
Kimpton: Known for their boutique appeal and chef-driven gourmet restaurants, Kimpton hotels might be one of several smaller brands Wang ends up acquiring to make up for the unavailability of a hotel superpower. Kimpton operates 62 hotels in the United States and none of them are quite the same, though floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and velvet curtains are typical of the quality that the guest suites reflect.
Viceroy: Viceroy’s 16-hotel portfolio includes L’Ermitage Beverly Hills and Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi. Viceroy Santa Monica includes the Cameo Bar, a gorgeous compilation of mid-century furnishings and high-quality service, and the gourmet Cast restaurant. Complimentary champagne upon arrival, in-room beauty bars, and extensive green initiatives are concepts that have helped create a special ambiance at Viceroy properties and that can export well.
Morgans: Based in New York, Morgans operates 12 hotels, which have been favored by the young affluent for stylish décor and rooftop infinity pools. Ian Schrager, who is given credit for creating the concept of the boutqiue hotel, opened the Hudson in New York and the Mondrian in Los Angeles for Morgans. “Morgans has three good brands, brands whose value is arguably much bigger than their actual footprint because they are in key cities and well known throughout the U.S. and abroad,” said Chris Agnew, an analyst at MKM Partners LLC.
Whether any or all of these chains will be available to Wang remains to be seen. At the moment, their representatives have declined comment. “It’s a slow process,” Wang told Bloomberg, “Those companies we liked, they might not be willing to sell. Those willing to be bought, we might sometimes feel the brand isn’t as good.” With Dalian Wanda’s revenue forecast to exceed $100 billion by 2020, and Wang’s current net worth of $12.7 billion, it is certain that Wang may not settle for second best.
image credit: four seasons, mondrian