Anbang Ownership Data Sought by Hotel Union Negotiating PactBy
Unite Here also seeks management agreements for three hotels
Chinese firm’s U.S. unit says no plans for condo conversions
Anbang Insurance Group Co., the acquisitive Chinese company dogged by questions about its ownership, got a new request for shareholder data and management agreements for three of its U.S. hotels from a union conducting contract negotiations at one of the properties.
Unite Here represents housekeepers, bellmen and other workers at two California hotels -- the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco and Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel -- and at the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park. The union said incentive payments to hotel managers might encourage the operator to keep down labor costs and jobs could be lost if rooms are converted into condominiums, as Anbang is doing at New York’s Waldorf Astoria.
The three hotels were part of Anbang’s 2016 purchase of Strategic Hotels & Resorts from Blackstone Group LP. The original agreement for 16 hotels was for $6.5 billion, almost $500 million more than Blackstone had paid for them three months earlier, but one property, the Hotel del Coronado near San Diego, dropped out.
The premium the insurer paid “heightens our concern that Anbang may be seeking an alternative use for some or all of the hotels,” Anand Singh, president of Unite Here Local 2, wrote in a May 5 letter to Randy Zupanski, general manager of the Westin St. Francis, which has almost 1,200 rooms. Zupanski didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment.
Anbang has faced pressure for more disclosure about its ownership and finances since it embarked on a global takeover spree in 2014. It referred questions to its U.S. unit.
“Strategic Hotels & Resorts has no current plans for any condominium conversions and remains committed to working with all its employees to ensure its hotels will remain premier, best-in-class properties and valuable real estate assets,” the company said in an emailed statement. It declined to comment further.
Unite Here is negotiating a new contract at the Loews hotel. A deed of trust it obtained showing a $275 million loan on the property by an Anbang unit in Seoul “raises more questions” about Anbang’s financing sources, the union said, without elaborating. The loan, maturing in January 2019, was made by Tongyang Life Insurance Co., according to the deed. Tongyang referred questions to Anbang.
Unite Here represents about 270,000 workers in North America, according to its website.