The Sultan of Brunei is looking to expand his holdings with the possible purchase of The Plaza hotel in New York City. That hotel plus two others come with a price tag of $2.2 billion. The current owner, Subrata Roy, head of the Sahara Group, would like to sell in order to get his hands on some cash to get out of prison. He was arrested in India earlier this year on money laundering charges.
Back in May, the Sultan — and by extension, the Beverly Hills Hotel — faced some high-profile protesters including Jay Leno, Richard Branson and Ellen DeGeneres because of Sharia laws he put in place in April. These laws promise to inflict harsh punishments such as incarceration, stonings and amputation for “crimes” such as homosexuality, abortion and adultery.
“Christopher Cowdrey, CEO of the Dorchester Collection, which owns the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air, has been quick to respond, speaking to the media directly about the issue. But what he’s been saying is terrible,” we wrote at the time. The Sultan’s investment agency owns the Dorchester Collection.
These big-name Hollywood celebs asked for a boycott and promised to keep away from events held at these hotels until there was change. It cost $2 million in business.
New York has its fair share of celebrities. But more than that, what New York has is a lot of business travel in addition to millions of tourists per year. And a lot of high-end hospitality competition. Criticism on the East coast could be just as, if not more, potent.
The Human Rights Campaign has already made it known that they don’t want the Sultan buying the properties.
“We urge all New Yorkers to have one simple and straight-forward message for the sultan: Take your business elsewhere,” said Ty Cobb of the Human Rights Campaign. The HRC is very outspoken on issues such as same-sex marriage and civil rights and has been able to generate publicity by building ties with celebrities.
But more than that, this group and others could find ways to shame those that would frequent hotels that are owned by the Sultan. New York City hosts millions of tourists every year and a number of big events. And business travelers from around the world spend a good number of nights at the city’s upscale hotels.
There are also lots of options for places to stay in the city. So if all that a company or organization has to do to avoid bad publicity and support of an inhumane ruler is relocate a few blocks north or west to another posh bed for a few nights, they probably will.
The Sultan’s laws don’t recognize human rights. And a big reason why he has the power to put these laws in place is his wealth. Hitting him in the pocketbook might be the best way to stand up to him.