Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

Rich family takes controlling interest in rebranded Sofitel

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

Multimillionaire low-profile Auckland family the Pandeys have again expanded their commercial hotel property holdings, buying into the Sofitel Auckland, formerly The Westin at the Lighter Quay.

Last week, the world's biggest hotel operator, French-headquartered Accor, celebrated the rebranding and reopening of the property, welcoming Charles Pandey and his son Prakash to its event.

The head of Sofitel for Asia Pacific, Markland Blaiklock, said he was pleased with the Pandeys' involvement.

Prakash Pandey is the sole director of Pandey Viaduct Suites Trust, registered with the Companies Office last October.

The family have bought the management rights and leases at the property, unifying all the stratas under their corporate umbrella, and have negotiated with Accor to take over the management on a contractual basis.

Accor does not own the hotel but runs it and some suites owned mainly by Singaporean investors.

The Pandeys now have a controlling interest in the property, amalgamating various strata titles and also owning some suites, the restaurants, cafes, reception and conference venues in the building.

The hotel's developer and former owner of the management rights, Nigel McKenna, is now bankrupt and his Lighter Quay Hotel Management fell initially into the hands of receivers Michael Stiassny and Brendon Gibson at Korda Mentha but in an unusual turn, it was then transferred to Tim Downes and Richard Simpson of Grant Thornton.

The latest receivership update said that following the cancellation of Starwood Group's management contract to run The Westin, all remaining stock had been sold although Bank of Scotland International was owed $16.6 million.

That debt is understood to have been onsold to Pacific Alliance Group, headquartered in Hong Kong.

Downes, who also attended last Wednesday's opening, said this week the sale to the Pandeys was a successful outcome for the investors and Auckland.

"There's a good story here in terms of good news," Downes said, adding that CP Group now owned 20 hotels, all with management arrangements in place with Accor.

One party close to the property sale to the Pandeys said a lack of alliance was the key issue with the Westin situation and the reason Starwood pulled out of the property.

"They didn't have that unified control. The Pandeys also bought a number of the units outright.

"They have bought the management rights to the complex and unified the stratas."

The low-profile Pandeys operate via CP Group, based on level seven of the Dingwall Building in Auckland's central business district.

Six years ago, Prakash Pandey, then aged 32, told the Herald his family-owned company had bought the 189-room Mercure at the intersection of Queen St, Queen Elizabeth II Square and Customs St and was about to start a $5 million refurbishment of its ground-floor and conference areas.

By that stage, CP Group had spent more than $200 million on 10 hotel properties and added the Mercure for around $30 million.

But since then CP has vastly expanded, buying the Hyatt Auckland - which Accor rebranded a Pullman - and many other properties.

The family business made its money in Singapore residential and commercial real estate, Pandey said, and its name stood for the initials of his father, Charles Pandey.

The Pandeys have never appeared on the NBR Rich List.

PANDEY EMPIRE
* Charles and Prakash Pandey.
* Established and run CP Group.
* By 2006, had about $200m of property, with 10 hotels.
* Has bought into Sofitel Auckland.
* Now own 20 hotels throughout New Zealand.

- NZ Herald

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