The long, complicated saga of the attempts to sell the Plaza Hotel is not over yet: Despite reports earlier this year that Sahara Group, the current owner, was being forced to sell its stake in the storied hotel, that doesn’t seem to have happened; instead, according to the Wall Street Journal, the company has hired a broker to market the property, signaling that it’s finally ready to part ways with it once and for all.
Let’s revisit how the hotel got here: It’s had many owners over the years, including the Hilton clan and current president Donald Trump; El-Ad purchased it in 2004, and led the conversion of more than 100 of its hotel rooms into luxury condos. In 2012, Sahara Group purchased a majority stake in the company, valuing it at about $575 million. But things spun out of control quickly for the firm and its president, Subrata Roy; after defaulting on loans, Roy was imprisoned in India, and Sahara was said to be shopping the hotel around to help get him out of jail. (WSJ says he’s been out on parole since 2016.)
That’s the short version—there are many more twists and turns, which you can read in our past coverage—and the fact that Sahara has taken the step of hiring a broker for the property “suggests a commitment to consummate a transaction,” according to Sean Hennessey, CEO of the consulting firm Lodging Advisors. Previous attempts to sell the hotel to potential buyers (including, apparently, Pras Michel of the Fugees) have always fallen apart, but that could change now that JLL Hotels and Hospitality Group, an offshoot of a larger real estate firm, is on the scene.
According to the WSJ, the hotel could be worth as much as $560 million—nothing to sneeze at, but also not close to the highest price ever paid for a hotel in New York City. That distinction still belongs to the Waldorf Astoria, which Hilton sold to Chinese developer Anbang for $1.95 billion. It’s now in the process of having hundreds of its hotel rooms converted into condos, just like at the Plaza.