8 June 2015 – Huffington Post India
In a major deal for the Sahara Group, billionaire brothers David and Simon Reuben have acquired control of the crisis-hit Indian group’s iconic Grosvenor House hotel here and the two US properties — Plaza and Dream Downtown — in an $850-million (Rs 5,500 crore) debt refinance deal, a media report said today. There was no official word from Sahara Group on this and the emailed queries in this regard remained unanswered.
The Reuben brothers “have taken control of the Grosvenor House in London and two other luxury hotels in New York through a $850-million debt deal,” the Sunday Times reported. It further said “David and Simon Reuben, whose empire stretches from data centres to horse racing, clinched the purchase of two loans against the properties from Bank of China late last week,” and they have given a four-month extension to the Sahara Group. The Grosvenor House hotel was put on sale by its lender Bank of China earlier this year after a “technical default.”
Sahara Group has been trying to raise funds to secure release of its chief Subrata Roy, who has been lodged in Tihar Jail for over a year, through monetisation of its various assets including the three overseas hotels. Bank of China put Grosvenor House under “administration” early in March for recovery of its loans, while Deloitte and realty consultant JLL were mandated to find a buyer. At that time, Sahara Group had said it was still working on a refinancing transaction to repay the loans to Bank of China and regain control of the iconic property. Sahara had also said that the London hotel was being “treated under default” because Bank of China has declared “an event of default” on the US loans due to some “technical breaches” in the financial covenants.
The loan on Sahara’s three hotels from Bank of China was “cross collateralised and cross guaranteed”. Sahara had said the debt servicing for the UK and US loans “has always been completely proper and timely”. Saharas’ refinancing arrangements involved getting a fresh loan for the three properties. A part of the proceeds would be given to Bank of China for release of Grosvenor House from “administration”, while the remainder could be deposited with SEBI to secure release of Roy and two other top officials from Tihar Jail.
Grosvenor House, a landmark property on Park Lane here that was designed by acclaimed architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, was purchased by the Saharas in 2010. The two hotels in the US were purchased later. The three hotels were acquired between 2010-2012 at an estimated valuation of $1.55 billion. The group has been engaged in a legal battle with capital markets regulator SEBI for a long time over a case involving raising of funds from investors to the tune of over Rs 24,000 crore. Sahara, however, claims it has already repaid 95 per cent of the investors’ money directly.