By ADAM SCHRECK, Associated Press
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The Dubai owner of Jumeirah Essex House, the art deco hotel perched prominently on the edge of New York's Central Park, said Monday it is putting the property up for sale.
A subsidiary of the Dubai Holding investment company controlled by the emirate's ruler bought the 44-story luxury hotel in September 2005. It has been managed by a sister company, Dubai Holding's Jumeirah Group hotel division, since shortly after the acquisition.
Jumeirah said the hotel's owner, Dubai Investment Group, has "appointed advisers to explore opportunities" for the property — typically a euphemism for shopping for buyers.
"Jumeirah remains confident in the value it brings as an internationally respected luxury hotel brand and expects that it will continue to manage the hotel after the sale of the property," the hotel company said.
DIG is part of a larger investment company known as Dubai Group, which in turn is part of the sprawling Dubai Holding firm personally controlled by Dubai's ruler, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Dubai Holding is one of three major holding companies in the Gulf emirate. Like the city-state's Dubai World conglomerate, it expanded rapidly by taking on large amounts of debt which it then struggled to repay as the world economy turned sour.
The emirate and its state-linked companies together owe lenders at least $101.5 billion, credit rating firm Moody's Investors Service estimated in December.
Dubai Holding's many divisions have quietly sold off assets in the past couple of years as the emirate works to get its financial house in order.
Dubai Group, the Essex House owner, has spent more than a year trying to convince its lenders to agree to new terms on some $10 billion of debt it holds. No deal has been reached yet, though the company says negotiations are continuing.
It holds stakes in several financial companies, including Europe's Marfin Popular Bank, and owns commercial property in Germany and the U.S.
Fadel al-Ali, Dubai Group's acting CEO, said the company constantly reviews its portfolio of holdings and will sell off assets if the market conditions are right.
"Current global investor demand for world-class hotel assets such as Essex House provides a timely opportunity to capitalize on the repositioning and operational improvements executed by our team," he said in a statement.
Essex House opened in 1931 at the southern end of Central Park, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. Its red rooftop "Essex House" sign has made the hotel a Manhattan landmark for decades.
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