The Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal has sold his stake in the troubled Fairmont Norfolk Hotel and Fairmont Mara Safari Club to a tycoon from Nepal for Sh2.8 billion in a mega deal closed prior to the spread of Covid-19.
The hotels came to the limelight last week after the management announced it was laying off employees, due to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.
On thursday the hotel issued a notice in which it announced the withdrawal of the earlier memo after the Office of the Attorney-General questioned the legality of the firing.
It has now emerged thatPrince Al-Waleed, through his Kingdom Holding, sold his stake to the Chaudhary Group (CG). The prince has been on a path to reorganise his portfolio after being detained during Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on corruption.
A transaction advisor who took part in the Fairmont deal and requested to remain anonymous said the Norfolk and Mara Safari Club cost the Nepalese tycoon Sh2.8 billion.
Chaudhary Group associated with Binod Chaudhary, a billionaire Nepalese has now listed the two hotels among its string of high-end hospitality investments in Asia and the Middle East.
The lucrative deal will give CG an additional 170 guest rooms and suites, 51 luxury tents and about 10 food and beverage outlets.
The acquisition of the iconic Norfolk hotel in Nairobi hotel and the Mara tented facility will be the second deal in the region for the Kathmandu-based multinational. CG also bought Le Relax Hotel in Seychelles.
The group also has investments in banking, education, energy, telecommunication and pharmaceuticals operating in five continents.
Nepalese media reports that Chaudhary Group Chairman and President, Binod, is worth $1.4 billion (Sh148.5 billion).
Kingdom Hotel Investments spent Sh6 billion in 2005 to acquire and renovate Lonrho properties which is the last remnants of British aristocrat Tiny Rowland’s vast empire.
The chain includes the iconic-Norfolk hotel in Nairobi, the Mount Kenya Safari Club in Nanyuki, the Aberdare Country Club, the Ark and the Mara Safari Club.
The acquisition was as one of the largest in East Africa at the time before Prince Al-Waleed took a strategic decision to sell off his interests in hotels, selling Four Seasons Damascus in Syria and Four Seasons Beirut in Lebanon.
The Prince made the sales two years after he became one the high-ranking Saudi officials arrested in an anti-corruption crackdown.
According to Bloomberg, the flamboyant prince in his 60s, a serial investor in high end hotels, has built a fortune worth $20.4 billion (about Sh2.1 trillion) in the past 30 years.
The Prince has major stakes in News Corp, Citigroup and Twitter. He co-owned the Four Seasons hotel chain along with American billionaire Bill Gates and he is also the owner of London’s landmark luxury hotel, The Savoy, The George V in Paris and the Plaza in New York.
Earlier on, Kingdom Holdings ceded control of the 5-star Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club to billionaire Humphrey Kariuki who is currently fighting a Sh41 billion tax evasion suit.
The takeover of the Kenyan hotels come at a time when the hotel industry has been ravaged by the covid-19 pandemic.
The new owners are now fighting an employee revolt after the workers declined an offer to remain on unpaid leave during the coronavirus period. They demand to be retained on 50% pay.
The ban on all international flights, the dusk-to-dawn curfew and a ban on movement in and out of five counties worst hit by the coronavirus outbreak, including Mombasa and Nairobi, worsened the business for hoteliers.
Most five-star hotels in Kenya have closed down business including Tribe Hotel, Ole Sereni and DusitD2 due to the impacts of coronavirus pandemic.