New York Palace, Hotel Bel-Air Come Under Dorchester Domain

London-based luxury hotel group Dorchester Collection, owner of such iconic properties as the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris, has brought two additional legendary assets under its umbrella with the attainment of contracts to manage New York City’s renowned New York Palace Hotel and the tony Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles. The properties’ change in management is due to a change in ownership as, in November 2007, the Court of Appeal of Brunei Darussalam’s Judicial Committee of the Privy Council ruled that the hotels’ owner, embattled Prince Jefri of Bolkiah, must honor a previous agreement to transfer the assets to the Brunei Investment Agency. Featuring 899 luxury guestrooms and a 7,000-square-foot spa and fitness center, the Palace (pictured) encompasses a tower rising 55-stories above Madison Avenue, as well as the 126-year-old Villard Mansions. Dorchester plans to invest more than $100 million to upgrade the property, known as the Helmsley Palace Hotel until 1992. The upscale Hotel Bel-Air, which made its debut in 1946, features 91 guestrooms and suites on a sprawling 12-acre parcel on Stone Canyon Rd. Dorchester will upgrade the Hotel Bel-Air as well, adding a $6 million spa that will open its doors next year. The property was most recently renovated in 2006 to the tune of $22 million. Now that Dorchester has taken control of management of the Palace and the Hotel Bel-Air, the company’s portfolio of managed properties has expanded to seven, five of which it owns. The new assignment dovetails with Dorchester’s current corporate strategy of increasing its portfolio by 15 hotels in vital North American and European markets within the next five to 10 years. “Despite the global economic slowdown we are still enjoying good growth across our portfolio of hotels, as we have a robust customer base especially from high net worth individuals,” a Dorchester spokesperson told CPN. ” Prince Jefri’s relinquishment of the Palace and the Hotel Bel-Air comes years after he turned over ownership of other assets to the Brunei Investment Agency, including Plaza Athénée, which Dorchester acquired from the agency in 2003. Prince Jefri, the brother of the Sultan of Brunei, was sued by the Brunei Investment Agency over a decade ago after he was removed from the post of finance minister amidst allegations of financial misdeeds. In 2000, a settlement agreement was reached, detailing the prince’s obligation to transfer ownership of a hoard of assets worth billions to the agency. Legal battles between the two sides have been waging ever since, with the prince denying the right of the agency to take certain properties, including The Palace and the Hotel Bel-Air.