The Beverly Wilshire Hotel has been purchased for $125 million by investors headed by Hong Kong-based Regent International Hotels, which said Tuesday that it plans to maintain the Beverly Hills landmark in the tradition set by hotelier Hernando Courtright.
In fact, the 81-year-old Courtright will stay on as titular proprietor and resident padrino under a lifetime contract, said Regent President Robert H. Burns, who called the 453-unit establishment "truly one of a handful of great hotels in the world." Also, veteran general manager George White will remain in that post.
Courtright, whose family owns 40% of the Beverly Wilshire, made a 45-minute press conference as colorful and twinkling as the red tie with white polka-dots that he sported with his dark blue suit.
The man who made the hotel's watering hole, Hernando's Hideaway, and its motto, Mi Casa Es Su Casa , familiar to visiting royalty and many others, had a good time reminiscing Tuesday in a 35-minute ramble through his personal history before opening the floor to questions.
Along the way he traced his lineage to "a Spanish conquistador --a fella named Del Valle"--and lamented that his forebears lost their land to drought instead of striking oil.
When the Beverly Wilshire sale is closed Dec. 31, under terms of a definitive agreement, the major seller along with the Courtright family will be Texas oilman Corwin Denney, who owns 27%.
Courtright and Burns said smaller interests are held by movie stars Irene Dunne and Kirk Douglas. The late Walt Disney was one of his original partners, Courtright said.
Burns, 56, a native New Yorker who founded the hotel management concern 15 years ago, did not identify any participants in the investor group led by Regent. In fact, he maintained that he does not yet know who the investors will be, adding that it might be "some pension fund."
12 Hotels, Resorts
He said Hongkong & Shanghai Bank is providing temporary financing. The Courtright partnership employed New York investment bankers Drexel Burnham Lambert as its financial adviser in the deal.
Regent manages 12 luxury-class hotels and resorts in the United States and around the world. These include the Regent Hong Kong, the Dorchester in London, the Regent of Bangkok and the Mayfair Regent of New York.
Courtright, who proudly bears the honorary title of El Padrino del Pueblo de Los Angeles, formerly held by the late actor Leo Carrillo, recalled that he has lived in Los Angeles for more than 50 years and has had three careers.
"Once, I thought I was a banker," he said, adding that later he was "deep in the wine business" before going into the hotel business in the mid-1930s.
First, it was the Beverly Hills Hotel, which Bank of America sent him to rescue from bankruptcy, according to newspaper archives. After making it a celebrated hotel, Courtright bought the Beverly Wilshire in 1960 and decided to try to surpass the Beverly Hills Hotel.
In 1971, the Beverly Wilshire opened a luxurious new wing that transformed the place from the one built in 1927, which Courtright cracked Tuesday as having at one time been "occupied by drifters from Las Vegas." The addition, he said jokingly, "gave class to Beverly Hills." The hotel has rooms that start at $145 a night and range up to $1,000 a night for the sumptuous Christian Dior suite, according to general manager White. It also has several floors of apartments with full hotel service that have been popular with the jet set and Hollywood stars over the years. White declined to say what those rent for.
Fit for Royalty
Through his years at the hotel at Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Drive, Courtright has been described as ramrodding his staff to see that "this place is grand luxe" and fit for the kings and queens and celebrities of all sorts who have stayed there.
Burns put it this way Tuesday:
"Mr. Courtright has made the Beverly Wilshire the destination for heads of state, royalty and distinguished national and international visitors."
Burns, noting the proprietor's "legendary innovations and accomplishments," said he has long been "one of his greatest fans."
The hotel's location is "incomparable," said the Regent chief, and his group has for years been interested in buying it.
"All of us at Regent International," Burns said, "are looking forward to becoming an integral part of this unique community."