Aman, Zecha; Part 2

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Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.


Aman, Zecha; Part 2

In my earlier report on Aman Resorts ((AR) the company running and owning some Aman resorts, and its new/old owners), one of my three guesses on what might happen next was right. “…Something no-one thought of…”


I listed some of the power struggles that have taken place in the past. This is the new one. Here are some of the main points of this continuing and complex story:




-The company that bought Aman this past February (for about US$360mn) was Peak Hotels and Aman Resorts Group. ARG, despite that name, was newly formed and bought the company that owned AR.


-Partners in Peak and ARG are Omar Amanat and Adrian Zecha (AZ). However they were part of what is called an ‘investment group’ – presumably those providing the money – that included Vladislav Doronin.


-Doronin was named ‘majority owner’, but owner of what, and any more precision on that ‘majority’ is not yet available. Who the other investors are, and whether they are important, is not clear.


-Johan Eliasch appears to be a facilitator/fixer/go-between in this matter. Subsequent information indicates that he was ‘on the side of’ Amanat/AZ but is now being accused by them in the courts of being, in fact, on the side of Doronin. He may be abandoned by both; a pawn thrown to the wolves (sorry for mixed metaphors).


-Amanat, 41, is an American financier/entrepreneur who has made a few big business/finance deals worth well above the AR sale price. The same for Doronin, 51, except he is Russian. Eliasch, 52, is Swedish. AZ, 81, cannot be simply categorised –ethnic Chinese, Dutch, Indonesian, etc.




-AZ has been reinstated as head of Aman Resorts by UK court order, which also criticised Doronin’s actions.


-Before these four became involved in the takeover of AR earlier this year, AZ was chairman. After the takeover, Amanat became chairman and AZ CEO. After the Doronin coup d’etat, Eliasch became chairman and Doronin CEO. After the court order, it seems again that AZ is CEO and Amanat chairman.


-Doronin is now suing Amanat and AZ, in the US ironically, to overturn that UK court order and give/return the company to him.



The outcome?

-I believe Doronin has more fire power and staying power than Amanat. AZ is weak financially (in these big-sum terms) and so is in the hands of his current champion, Amanat. That said, AZ has contacts everywhere and cannot be under-estimated.


-Presumably, though, as this is now being fought in the courts, that will be a factor. I believe Amanat/AZ will win those battles.


-But there also seems likely to be an out-of-court settlement between Amanat and Doronin.




-AZ. Even if he survives and remains head of AR, his power will likely be reduced. In the past, however, an apparent reduction in power does not seem to have stopped him doing what he wants to do.


-AR. It is not a stunning business success and may even be a stunning business failure; no figures available. The Wall Street Journal is simplistically impressed with AR’s high average room rates. But it gives no figures, and forgets that if it costs, say, 50% more to get that ARR, then losses are high as well.




-Doronin seemed unreasonably vindictive, immediately cancelling Singapore work permits and rental contracts for homes for some of the staff. I would have thought he had more important things to do than slap some workers in the face.


-Both Doronin and Amanat have big-name-models as partners. For Amanat, his wife is Helena Houdova, a former model from the Czech Republic widely known internationally. Doronin was five years with ‘super-model’ Naomi Campbell, but is now with Chinese model Luo Zilin. Bling is a way of life for them.


-Amanat has brushed with the law before, successfully suing some UK newspapers for what they said about him and one of his transactions. He formed Bridges TV in the US as a station for US moslems; it shut down in 2012. His partner in Bridges is currently in prison in the US for murdering and beheading his third wife in 2009.


-Amanat in Arabic/Urdu means ‘security, deposit’. The family is of Pakistani origins.



Why are they all fighting over a business that may not be a success (except AZ, because it is ‘his’ company)? Presumably the prestige. And Amanat must surely like the idea that his family name will prompt most to assume that AR is named after him. The biggest bling of all.


An excerpt from our monthly People-in-Travel report.




The Fox

Remember, I’ll be famous after I’m dead.


Adrian Zecha, Aman Resorts

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Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.


Adrian Zecha, Aman Resorts.

There are many facts, and even more clouded ‘facts’, about Adrian Zecha (AZ) and the company he has been most-closely associated with, Aman Resorts (AR). This report is an attempt to show the key facts (our choice; there are obviously 1000s more) up to now, and our take on now and the future.


For reasons of space, this is but a brief review. Not all processes, results, names, are given.


—This April, AR got yet another owner. We count that as AR’s 5th major owner, not counting the smaller changes in partners, funders/backers.


—Last month, AR founder and chairman AZ was out, along with two of his long-term associates Trina Ebert and Julia Walters. It is difficult to read this move in any way other than that they were fired.


—AZ (and TE, JW) have been there before. Colony Capital (current big investor in Accor Hotels, and one of those five earlier main owners of AR) eased out AZ in 1998. In the wilderness years, AZ formed an AR clone, Maha Resorts. But he was back running AR in 2000 after CC, despite its pedigree, power, and skills, lost badly in a power struggle among other owners, backers, and everyone else. However, because the interlude was short, it is not clear that AZ’s Maha was a business success, or would have been a success.


—For us, AR is a good but not great profitable business, but for the actual Aman resorts some are profitable, particularly those with resident properties attached, but most are probably not.


—AZ has personally worked hard, very hard, to achieve what he wants – whatever that is. But he has driven a hard bargain of all those he deals with. He is hard to define – not heartless, but hard, and then sometimes soft. He is a strong businessman, who can use his charm to hide the harshness of a particular business deal. We would rather be on his side.


—Replacing AZ as AR chairman is Johan Eliasch. However, we regard AZ’s real replacement not Eliasch but AR’s new CEO, Vladislav Doronin, a Russian businessman. Doronin has experience in luxury properties (albeit mainly in Russia), but not in AR. In fact, Doronin moved quickly, calling AR the ‘Aman Group’ and saying the group would expand into cities. As far as we are concerned, AR without AZ’s direction and inspiration (and an impressive list of important contacts on all continents) is a dud buy for an investor. In one, possibly two years, Doronin will know, and sell or shut down.



But what will happen to AZ? We can see a few possibilities:


—AR itself will fade. Whether into a me-too luxury resort company, into someone’s arms, or into the deep blue sea, we cannot foresee.


—AZ. He has a few choices:


-Move into his other hotel company, also-Singapore-based GHM Hotels. But he cannot offer much (unless he adds a luxury resorts division).


-Restart Maha.


-Join Singapore-based Banyan Resorts. Although AZ and Banyan’s founder Ho Kwon Ping are not quite friends, they are not quite enemies either. And the much-younger Ho has a racial (not always racist) softness for successful ethnic Asians.


-Join Regent Hotels, the company AZ made great 30 years ago with Bob Burns, Rudi Greiner, Michael Matthews, Georg Rafael. New owner of a much-diminished now-Taiwan-based Regent, Steven Pan, would probably like Zecha’s name, although it is difficult to see where AZ would fit in, as Burns is already honorary chairman. And Burns and AZ are not great friends either, although they did work together well enough to create the first Regent incarnation (actually, the 2nd, but it’s a long story).


-AZ himself shuts down.



Most likely? Restart Maha with Ho/Banyan. Second guess – restart Maha under GHM. Third – something no-one thought of…


An excerpt from our monthly People-in-Travel report.




The Fox

Remember, I’ll be famous after I’m dead.