London, Aug. 23: Once this would have happened only in a game of monopoly. But one of London’s most prestigious hotels, the Intercontinental in Mayfair, has been bought by an Indian, Jasminder Singh, for £115 million, it was disclosed today.
“It’s the deal of the century,” enthused his close friend and fellow hotelier, Joginder Sangar, who owns the nearby Washington, favourite haunt for tea and snacks of Shah Rukh Khan and other Bollywood stars.
With the Intercontinental Mayfair also in Indian hands, Bollywood stars and other Indian celebrities will have another watering hole in one of the prized real estates in the world.
Singh, the chairman and chief executive of the Radisson Edwardian group, is one of the richest Asians in Britain. His wealth has been estimated at £320 million, placing him as high as number three on the Asian rich list.
The 289-room Intercontinental Mayfair has been sold to Radisson Edwardian Hotels because the seller wants to run down its debts.
A spokesman for the Intercontinental group, which owns, manages, leases or franchises 3,300 hotels in nearly 100 countries, said: “The deal amounts to almost £400,000 per room and the proceeds of the sale will be used to pay down debt.”
The chief executive of the Intercontinental group, Richard North, explained: “We have clearly expressed our strategy of driving enhanced returns through reducing capital intensity. We are therefore in the process of selling hotels that we do not need to own, providing we can achieve fair value. The sale of the Intercontinental Mayfair meets both these tests.”
Singh kept in close touch with Sangar throughout the negotiation period.
“Intercontinental Hotels didn’t have the patience after two other deals fell through,” said Sangar. “After signing the contract with lawyers, Jasminder rang me from his car and said ‘you are the first person I am ringing’. I said ‘congratulations’.”
Asked whether purchase of the Intercontinental Mayfair made Singh a big player, Sangar replied: “He is already a big player. He started Edwardian Hotels in Britain — they have several hotels in this country. There is one near Heathrow. He took the franchise for the M25 (motorway) area from the American Radisson group under a GDS (Global Distribution System). The price paid makes this a very good deal.”
Sangar revealed that when he was negotiating to buy the Washington, “I kept asking Jasminder for advice. He said ‘buy it, you can’t go wrong’.”
Singh was born in Dar-es-Salaam in 1951, educated in East Africa, came to Britain in 1968 and qualified in accountancy. He entered the hotel business in 1979 when he formed the Edwardian group, now one of the most successful privately owned groups in the country with 10 hotels.
He sponsors the hotel management school in India and is a strong backer of Care International, the charity organisation. He lives in Ascot with his interior designer wife Amrit and four children. As Singh will soon discover, if he hasn’t already, having Bollywood stars to stay is not an unmixed blessing. Not only do they have their fads but expect suites for the price of a single room.