NEW DELHI: It’s hardly the US$30,000 a night royal suite, but after five months in India’s biggest jail, the owner of the New York Plaza and London’s Grosvenor House is thrilled to be able to use a modest office as he tries to sell the iconic hotels.
Indian tycoon Subrata Roy is putting up the two trophy properties and another luxury New York hotel for sale to raise US$1.6bil for the bail bond that will get him out of Tihar, a sprawling New Delhi prison complex that houses about 12,000 inmates.
About a minute’s walk from the headquarters of the prison, Roy now had a 600 sq ft office where he could hold video-conferences and receive visitors to try and sell or mortgage the hotels, said prison officials.
It’s a race against time for the 66-year-old head of the Sahara conglomerate: Under a deadline set by the Supreme Court, Roy has just a few days left to post the 100 billion rupees in cash and bank guarantees that would secure his release.
The only higher bail ever appears to be a US$3bil bond set by a judge in Texas in 2004 for a wealthy fugitive, although that was reduced to US$450,000 on appeal.
Roy was jailed in March after he failed to appear at a contempt hearing in the long-running dispute with the capital markets watchdog over the company’s failure to repay billions of dollars to investors who were sold outlawed bonds.
He is yet to be charged over the dispute and denies any wrongdoing. His Sahara group has vast real estate, media and hotel interests, part-owns a Formula 1 team and used to sponsor the Indian cricket team.
One asset that could raise quick cash is the landmark New York Plaza Hotel – a 107-year-old luxury property that overlooks Central Park. Studded with chandeliers, the hotel’s decor recalls the Great Gatsby era. Sahara bought the Plaza for about US$570mil in 2012.
Two years earlier, it paid £470mil (US$790mil) for the 494-room Grosvenor House opposite Hyde Park and just a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace.
Sahara is also seeking to sell the Dream Hotel in New York’s midtown Manhattan. — Reuters