Agence France-Presse and other agencies reported this morning that Hilton Hotels is selling sells the Waldorf Astoria to a Chinese firm for $1.95 bn. It took a (proverbial? cliche?) few seconds to register, but the Waldorf? I mean you can’t get any more historical American than John Jacob Astor and the mountain men and the Fur Trade. Who would have thunk only a few years ago that the venerable (that is what they call them now) Manhattan institution will be sold to a bunch of Chinese oligarchs and People’s Liberation Army functionaries.
Then only a couple of years ago reports came out of some Saudi prince buying the Le Crillon in Paris. I had stayed there once for three days, and of course I did not pay for it: it was a paid official business trip, otherwise I could not have afforded it. Then the Qataris have been buying other Paris properties even before they were admitted into the Francophone countries (about two or three Qataris probably speak French but money makes up for any deficiency).
Not to be outdone, the Emirati (UAE) potentates have been buying British sports clubs and any horses and mules and stables that are for sale across England. Come to think of it, Abu Dhabi has been buying almost anything else that is English and for sale (be it nailed or not). Even the upstart robber shaikhs of Bahrain have been known to use their ill-gotten loot to dabble in British properties.
All this is against the trend in the past couple of decades. Even the Mafia’s hold on Las Vegas gambling has faded in recent years, or so the reports say. At least since Francis Ford Coppola wisely gave up on a fourth sequel of the Corleone saga (the third one stank to Sicily and back).
Speaking of oligarchies and potentates and globalization. How come the Russians and their fabled petroleum and gas oligarchs have not been snapping up Western hotels and sports clubs and horses and department stores? Could it be that they knew ‘the sanctions’ were coming?
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum