Sell a hotel one week, buy another one the next. So it goes in the world of billionaire Saudi investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. On Saturday, Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding announced that Fairmont Hotels and Management, in which it has a partial stake, is purchasing the Fairmont Sonoma Spa and Inn in northern California for $88 million. This comes on the heels of news in mid-March that Alwaleed is selling his stake in the historic Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.
“This strategic acquisition is consistent with Kingdom Holding’s investment strategy,” Alwaleed said in a statement about the Fairmont Sonoma purchase.
Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding owns a 35% stake in Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, which manages the Fairmont Hotels around the world; other shareholders include Colony Capital and Cayman Islands-based Voyager Partners. The Prince also owns, with Bill Gates, the Four Seasons Resort and Hotels management company, and stakes in Movenpick Hotels & Resorts, Swissotel, and Raffles Hotels and Resorts.
Alwaleed is ranked No. 29 richest in the world on Forbes’ most recent list of the World’s Billionaires, with a net worth of $18 billion. He has long been an enthusiastic investor in hotels. He also owns the George V hotel in Paris and a stake in the Savoy Hotel in London, which underwent an expensive facelift before a splashy re-opening (featuring Prince Charles) in November 2010.
In mid-March Bloomberg reported that Alwaleed and co-investor Maritz, Wolff & Co. agreed to sell the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco for $200 million after the partners failed to receive permission to turn part of the hotel into residences. Los Angeles-based Woodridge Capital Partners is purchasing the landmark San Francisco hotel.
Not all of the Prince’s hotel investing has gone smoothly. In 2006 he listed Kingdom Hotel Investments on the Dubai stock exchange; the company owned the Prince’s stakes in hotels primarily in emerging markets, including Egypt and Kenya. In 2010 Kingdom Hotel Investments was delisted; its share were purchased by Alwaleed’s Saudi-listed investment vehicle Kingdom Holding Co., which is 95% owned by the Prince.
As part of the acquisition, Kingdom Holding is in the process of trying to sell all of the hotel stakes formerly owned by Kingdom Hotel Investments. One of those stakes is the Four Seasons Hotel in Damascus, Syria – where a real estate source recently told me the occupancy rate was hovering around 2%. Not surprising, given the violence and uprising going on in Syria.