14 August 2007 – Forbes.com
Rumors that the luxury hotel firm Orient-Express is up for sale have been milling around for the past few months, with speculation that everyone ranging from private equity firms to other hotel chains would be interested in snapping up the company. But as expectations of the global private equity buy-up boom recede, the company could fall into the hands of British property billionaires, the Reuben brothers.
According to press reports in Britain, David and Simon Reuben, who rank 177 on the Forbes list of billionaires, and are worth an estimated $4.5 billion, have upped their stake in the group to 5% and may be considering a bid for the company.
According to the Times of London, which did not name sources, the brothers were considering allying themselves with Lord Marland, a former treasurer of Britain’s Conservative Party, to gain control of the company for an estimated $3 billion.
A spokesman for the Reuben brothers said he couldn’t comment on market speculation.
Though the Reubens currently don’t hold stakes in other hotel groups, the value of the company’s properties could make it a very attractive proposition for them. They have made several acquisitions in the leisure industry, including the Wellington Pubs and Ultimate Leisure, which owns bars and clubs in England.
Orient-Express (nyse: OEH – news – people ), the owner of the iconic Venice-Simplon train, as well as 49 luxury hotels across the world, would be quite a feather in their cap. There had been speculation that heated competition for the company, including from Blackstone (nyse: BX – news – people ), which acquired the Hilton hotels, and Starwood (nyse: HOT – news – people ) and Von Essen Hotels could drive up its price. Despite this, no formal offer has so far emerged and there are even questions about whether the company is interested in a bid, now that it has a new Chief Executive at its helm, Paul White. Orient-Express was formly owned by the beleaguered Sea Containers, which was forced to spin off the hotel chain, as it restructures its finances under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S.
The Reuben brothers were born in Mumbai, India. Though David Reuben started off in metal trading, he joined his brother in real estate, which has remained their mainstay.