The Plaza Hotel, located in the Midtown Manhattan neighborhood of the borough of Manhattan, New York City, is a landmark 20-story luxury hotel and condominium apartment building, opened in 1907 and owned by an Indian conglomerate, Sahara India Pariwar.
With a height of 250 ft (76 m) and a length of 400 ft (120 m), the hotel occupies the west side of Grand Army Plaza, from which it derives its name, and extends along Central Park South in Manhattan. Fifth Avenue extends along the east side of Grand Army Plaza. The Plaza Hotel is recognized as a Historic Hotel of America by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The hotel's main entrance at 768 Fifth Avenue faces the southern portion of Grand Army Plaza, which commemorates the Union Army in the Civil War, whence its eponymous predecessor derived its name.
Construction on the first Plaza Hotel at this location began in 1883, on the site of the New York Skating Club. The builders ran out of money, and the New York Life Insurance Company foreclosed and hired the most celebrated architects of the era, McKim, Mead & White, to complete the hotel, which finally opened on October 1, 1890.
It soon became apparent that the first hotel was far too small, and it was demolished in 1905. A new and larger Plaza Hotel, a French Renaissance château-style building designed by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, was constructed in twenty-seven months at a cost of $12.5 million, opening to the public on October 1, 1907. When the hotel opened, a room at the Plaza Hotel was only $2.50 per night, the equivalent of $64.26 today. The same room costs over $1,000 per night today. The hotel proved so popular that a huge 300-room annex was added to the hotel along 58th Street from 1920-1921.
Conrad Hilton bought the Plaza Hotel for $7.4 million in October 1943 (equivalent of $102 million today) and spent $6 million (equivalent of $83 million today) refurbishing it. The Childs Company, a national restaurant chain, purchased The Plaza from Hilton on November 18, 1955 for $6.2 million in stock (equivalent of $56.6 million today). Childs had partnered in the development of the neighboring Savoy-Plaza Hotel, (now the site of the General Motors Building). Childs changed its name to Hotel Corporation of America (HCA) in 1956. HCA, in turn, changed its name to Sonesta International Hotels in 1970. Sonesta sold the Plaza to Western International Hotels in 1975 for $25 million (equivalent of $112 million today). Western International changed its name to Westin Hotels in 1980.
Westin sold The Plaza to Donald Trump for $390 million on March 27, 1988 (equivalent of $790 million today). Trump commented on his purchase in a full-page open letter in The New York Times: "I haven't purchased a building, I have purchased a masterpiece – the Mona Lisa. For the first time in my life, I have knowingly made a deal that was not economic – for I can never justify the price I paid, no matter how successful the Plaza becomes." Trump installed his wife, Ivana Trump as the hotel's president. After $50 million in renovations, the hotel was earning a healthy operating income, but not enough to make the payments on its heavy debt load. Trump made plans to pay off the hotel's debt by selling off many of its units as condominiums. A deal was instead reached for the Plaza's creditors, a group of banks led by Citibank, to take a 49 percent stake in the hotel in exchange for forgiveness of $250 million in debt and an interest rate reduction. The agreement was submitted as a prepackaged bankruptcy in November 1992.
The hotel was sold in 2004 for $675 million (equivalent of $856 million today) to Israeli-owned Manhattan-based developer, El Ad Properties. El Ad bought the hotel with plans of adding residential and commercial sections. Since the Plaza Hotel is a New York landmark, Tishman Construction Corporation, the construction management company hired to complete the renovations and conversions, had to comply with landmark regulations. El Ad temporarily closed the Plaza Hotel on April 30, 2005, for extensive renovations costing $450 million. Beginning May 2005, the Plaza Hotel's contents were available to the public via a liquidation sale.
The hotel reopened on March 1, 2008, offering 282 hotel rooms and 152 private condominium units; it is managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. Diamond retailer Lev Leviev put in the first bid for a Plaza apartment at $10 million. Most of the condominium units are usually empty, used as pieds-à-terre by their wealthy owners.
In November 2008 the Plaza Hotel unveiled its retail collection, an underground mall featuring luxury brands such as Vertu and Demel Bakery (closed as of March 2010), an Austrian-owned business. In 2010 the Plaza Food Hall opened in the underground mall, anchored by The Todd English Food Hall in collaboration with Chef Todd English.
On July 31, 2012, India's business group Sahara India Pariwar agreed to buy a 75 percent controlling stake for $570 million from El Ad Properties. The stake includes 100 of the Plaza's 150 hotel-condominium units and a retail portion that includes The Oak Room bar.
In August 2014, Sahara's Subrata Roy announced he was seeking a buyer for his company's majority stake in the Plaza, along with similar stakes in the Dream Hotel in New York and the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. A $4 billion price tag was placed on the Plaza stake. Speculation that Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei would be the buyer was quashed by the sultan.
In 2016, Saudi businessman Al-Waleed bin Talal, who already controls a 50 percent stake in the building's hotel, restaurant and retail portion through his Kingdom Holdings, partnered with Qatari Investment Authority to purchase the hotel, but the deal fell through. He partnered again in 2017 with Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp in another attempt to purchase control of the structure.
Long the site for famous performers and guests, it has also been the meeting place for important political meetings. The nationally known singers Josephine Baker, Eartha Kitt, Liza Minnelli, Marlene Dietrich, Lena Horne, Kay Thompson, Sandler and Young, Ethel Merman, Shirley Bassey, Andy Williams, The Mills Brothers, Patti Page and Peggy Lee played the Persian Room. Miles Davis recorded a live album in the Persian Room in 1958.
Unaccompanied ladies were not permitted in the Oak Room bar; women favored the Palm Court for luncheons and tea.
In September 1985, ministers of developed countries met at the Plaza Hotel to consult on finance issues and affirmed their agreement by signing the Plaza Accord. It served as an agreement among the finance ministers of the United States, Japan, West Germany, France and Britain to bring down the price of the U.S. dollar against their currencies.
On November 28, 1966, in honor of the publisher Katharine Graham, the writer Truman Capote hosted his acclaimed "Black and White Ball" in the Grand Ballroom. The ballroom was also the site, in 1993, of Donald Trump's wedding to Marla Maples in front of 1,500 guests.
The Plaza Hotel offers its guests and residences many services including a butler on every floor, baby-sitting and concierges, a shopping mall, the Palm Court under the restored stained glass ceiling, the Champagne Bar located in the hotel lobby with views of Grand Army Plaza, the Edwardian Room, the Terrace Room, the Rose Club, the Grand Ball Room, The Plaza Food Hall and The Todd English Food Hall Restaurant and Marketplace, as well as meeting rooms and conference rooms. The Grand Ballroom, Terrace Room and meeting spaces are currently managed by CPS Events, a joint venture between Delaware North Companies and the high end caterer Great Performances. The Oak Room, now closed, was another restaurant in the Plaza.
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