Michel Ohayon, the French-Jewish businessman who controls the luxury hotel group Financière Immobilière Bordelaise, agreed last week to buy the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem from Canada’s Reichmann family for $160 million.
The sale came after 18 months of debate among the five heirs to the estate of the late Paul Reichmann over whether to retain a stake in the property or sell it altogether. The Orthodox Jewish family had held onto the hotel for religious-Zionist reasons, even though they have no other hotel interests.
Ohayon’s FIB owns Le Grand Htel, the Intercontinental-affiliated hotel in Bordeaux, and the Waldorf Astoria Trianon Palace in Versailles. He was the 134th richest person in France in 2016, with 500 million euros, according to the French business magazine Challenges.
The Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem, on the corner of Agron and King David streets near the Mamilla Mall, was built in 1929 as the Palace Hotel. Meant to be a Arab-owned competitor to the King David Hotel, it closed in 1935 and was used for government offices.
Reichmann’s colorful career included developing London’s Canary Wharf, losing it to creditors, buying it back and then losing it a second time. He paid $20 million for the Jerusalem site in 2005. Reichmann died four years ago.
The hotel has a restaurant, banquet halls and 227 rooms and suites, as well as a 400-square-meter unoccupied space, designated for use as a restaurant. An adjacent luxury apartment tower contains three unsold units, each measuring about 250 to 300 square meters and valued at about $6.5 million.
Ohayaon will be buying the three apartments as well as the operating company and rights to operate it as a Walfdorf Astoria for another 15 years.