Battle for Aman Luxury Resorts Spills Over Into New Yorkby
Bankruptcy lawsuit seeks to rescind sale involving 27 resorts
London court settled ownership dispute day before NYC filing
A battle over 27 of the world’s most luxurious resorts spilled over into a Manhattan bankruptcy court the day after a U.K. court approved a settlement involving two former business partners -- American entrepreneur Omar Amanat and Russian-born real estate developer Vladislav Doronin.
British Virgin Islands-based Aman Resorts Group Ltd., or ARGL, filed a lawsuit in New York blaming Doronin for gutting its sole asset -- namely, the holding company that owns Aman Resorts and related intellectual property -- through a wrongful foreclosure action. The case, filed Wednesday, came after ARGL agreed to be put into bankruptcy protection in the U.S.
The New York lawsuit, filed in bankruptcy court against two firms controlled by Doronin, seeks to “rescind the purported sale” and restore to ARGL any earnings or other assets generated by the hotel operations during the period following the deal.
Doronin’s team is pushing back.
The Aman Resorts Group Ltd. listed in the petition “does not own or control the Aman hotel business and contrary to some media reports, has nothing whatsoever to do with Aman, the highly successful luxury hotel business,” Doronin spokesman Luke Chauveau said in an e-mailed statement. “These proceedings have no impact on the ownership of Aman.”
William Baldiga, one of the lawyers who filed the Manhattan suit on behalf of ARGL, didn’t immediately return calls for comment on the dispute.
Amanat and Doronin had initially been co-investors in the resorts, having formed a joint venture in 2014. A long-standing dispute over the hotels intensified, even as the chain expanded to cater to “Aman Junkies,” the name the company gives its most loyal guests.
Control of the resorts was arranged through layers of companies. According to Doronin, an ownership dispute was settled March 7 in the London court.
“As a result of this settlement, Mr. Doronin continues to be in full control of the luxury hotel group Aman,” Chauveau said. Amanat and “his associates,” who now have no interest in or connection with the Aman hotels business, are attempting to create a distraction with the New York bankruptcy case, he said.
According the New York lawsuit, Doronin’s Pontwelly Holding Co. improperly foreclosed on Silverlink Resorts Ltd., a holding company for the hotels. After the foreclosure, Pontwelly transferred its interest in Silverlink to Doronin’s A.H. Overseas, according to the filing. ARGL, which had been created to buy Silverlink from a previous owner, was left with $70 million in creditor obligations and no way to pay, according to the lawsuit.
Aman Resorts was founded in 1988 by Indonesian hotelier Adrian Zecha, one of the parties who petitioned to force ARGL into U.S. bankruptcy. The chain’s Amanemu resort in Japan was listed as one of the 20 most anticipated hotel openings of 2016, Forbes reported in January. Designed around hot springs, the hotel’s 6,500-square-foot spa has two private onsen, or baths, and four treatment suites, according to the magazine.
The case is Aman Resorts Group Ltd., 16-10517, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
(An earlier version of this story was corrected to clarify the relationships among the companies involved in the dispute.)