Last week, the iconic Waldorf Astoria brand was once again dominating headlines. This instance, however, was not focused on glittering events held in its ballroom in New York City but rather a sale of property taking place half way around the world. The Waldorf Astoria in the heart of Jerusalem has been owned by the philanthropic Reichmann family of Toronto, Canada. But last week, along came Michel Ohayon, (a French-Jewish businessman who operates the luxury hotel group Financiere Immobiliere Bordelaise) and he agreed to purchase the high end Jerusalem hotel for $160 million.
According to a report in Ha’aretz, the sale took quite a long time in the making. The five heirs to the estate of the late Paul Reichmann (the patriarch of the family) debated amongst themselves for about a year and half over whether the tony property should be sold out right, or whether the Reichmann heirs should retain a percentage of ownership in the hotel.
Ha’aretz also reported that the Reichmanns, who are proud Orthodox Jews had desired to hold on to a stake in the hotel for “religious-Zionist reasons” despite the fact that they have no other hotel interests.
Ohayon’s FIB owns Le Grand Hôtel, the Intercontinental-affiliated hotel in Bordeaux, and the Waldorf Astoria Trianon Palace in Versailles according to Ha’ertz. He was the 134th richest person in France in 2016, with 500 million euros, according to the French business magazine Challenges.
Reichmann’s colorful career included developing London’s Canary Wharf, losing it to creditors, buying it back and then losing it a second time. He paid $20 million for the Jerusalem site in 2005. Reichmann died four years ago.
The hotel has a restaurant, banquet halls and 227 rooms and suites, as well as a 400-square-meter unoccupied space, designated for use as a restaurant. An adjacent luxury apartment tower contains three unsold units, each measuring about 250 to 300 square meters and valued at about $6.5 million.
Ohayon will be buying the three apartments as well as the operating company and rights to operate it as a Waldorf Astoria for another 15 years, according to the Ha’aretz report.
The Waldorf Astoria in Jerusalem was ranked the seventh best hotel in the world in the Conde Nast magazine’s 2015 Readers’ Choice Awards Survey, which included 128,000 rankings, according to a JNS report. The hotel is part of the Waldorf Astoria Hotels and Resorts luxury chain of hotels that are modeled with elegance similar to that of the Waldorf Astoria in New York. The Waldorf Astoria is Jerusalem’s only internationally branded luxury hotel. Many of the amenities in Jerusalem’s Waldorf Astoria, including some of the most basic items had to be imported from abroad in order to abide by the highest standards of luxury.
Jerusalem’s Waldorf Astoria facilitates the observance of the Jewish Sabbath for its customers by equipping each room with an individualized Shabbat clock that allows guests to pre-set the lights in their room to go on and off before the onset of Shabbat. (Traditionally, it is forbidden on the Sabbath to adjust equipment that runs on electricity.)
The atrium in the hotel lobby also has a glass ceiling that opens during the Feast of Tabernacles, a holiday during which Jewish people customarily eat and sleep in Sukkot (booths).
The Waldorf Astoria is located outside of the Old City of Jerusalem at the site of the luxurious Palace Hotel that opened its doors in 1929 under the British Mandate of Palestine. The building ceased operating as a hotel in 1935 due to operational and maintenance costs and instead was rented out to the British government.
The Israeli government began using the hotel in 1948 as a location for several government offices, including the Ministry of Industry and Trade. The building was set to revert to its original function as a hotel in April 2008 followed by an announcement from Hilton Worldwide and IPC Jerusalem that a management agreement had been reached to construct Israel’s first Waldorf Astoria branch at the location of the former Palace Hotel.