Boycott over Brunei’s Sharia law costs Beverly Hills Hotel US$1.5 million in cancellations

CEO defends hotel saying it has done 'nothing wrong' and asks if consumers will boycott other hotels and businesses with links to countries that have similar laws

Boycott over Brunei’s Sharia law costs Beverly Hills Hotel US$1.5 million in cancellations
10 May 2014 Print This Article

The iconic Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, California says boycotts led by celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres, Stephen Fry, Jay Leno and Virgin CEO Richard Branson have resulted in cancellations of several major events worth US$1.5 million, according to NBC News.

The Motion Picture & Television Fund thhis week announced it won’t hold its annual Night Before the Oscar party at the hotel as it has for many years.

‘We cannot condone or tolerate these harsh and repressive laws and as a result support a business owned by the sultan of Brunei or a Brunei sovereign fund associated with the government of Brunei,’ the fund’s directors said in a statement according to the SF Gate.

The 102-year-old hotel is owned by the Brunei Investment Agency which is the investment arm of Brunei’s Ministry of Finance. On May 1 Brunei began phasing in a new penal code based on Shariah or Islamic law and by 2015, gay sex and adultery will be punishable by stoning to death.

Christopher Cowdray, CEO of the Dorchester Collection which runs the hotel told CNBC that despite the US$1.5 million worth in cancellations, it can weather the storm although the boycott is ‘unfair’.

The collection comprises 10 luxury hotels including the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles, The Dorchester and 45 Park Lane in London; Coworth Park in Ascot, England; Le Meurice and Hotel Plaza Athenee in Paris; Hotel Eden in Rome; Le Richemond in Geneva; and Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan.

The Brunei Investment Agency does not make public the hotels in its portfolio but it is believed to also own the Royal Plaza on Scotts and Grand Hyatt in Singapore, and the Grand Hyatt in Kuala Lumpur, according to travel publications.

Earlier this week, Cowdray says the boycott of the Beverly Hills hotel is merely ‘hurting a local business, and its 650 employees – many of whom rely on tips from the hotels’ well-heeled guests.

He told CBS News the hotel has done ‘absolutely nothing wrong’ and he felt ‘totally unfairly picked on.’

‘If you take the global perspective of this city, we’re not the only hotel or establishment or business that is owned by a country which has Sharia laws,’ Cowdray was quoted by CNBC as saying. ‘There’re so many hotels, banks and other organizations that have connections to countries which have this type of law.’

Kingdom Hotel Investments, which is owned by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia where homosexuality can be punished by stoning to death, operates 18 hotels in 13 countries under the Fairmont/Raffles, Four Seasons and Movenpick brands, according to its website.

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, which is owned by the government and the largest sovereign wealth fund in the Middle East, owns a slew of hotels worldwide including 42 Marriott hotels in the UK, The London Edition, and the yet-to-open The Miami Beach Edition and the New York Edition.

Article 80 of the Abu Dhabi Penal Code makes sodomy punishable with imprisonment of up to 14 years.

The City Council of Beverly Hills on Tuesday voted to urge the hotel to untangle itself from its connection to Sharia law.

Beverly Hills Mayor Lili Bosse said although she’s not calling for a city sanctioned boycott of the hotel, she will not be attending any events at the hotel until the issue is resolved.

‘Ideally the Brunei government will repeal these horrific laws. However if this doesn’t happen we want the hotel under different ownership so that it’s long and rich history in Beverly Hills will not be tarnished by the Brunei government’s actions.’

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