Waldorf Takeway: Legendary NYC hotel sold to Chinese for record $2bn

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The worlds’ biggest hotel operator Hilton Worldwide has sold the iconic Waldorf Astoria in New York to a Chinese insurance company for nearly $2 billion, a record for a US hotel. The deal marks the continued Chinese real estate shopping spree in America.

Hilton Worldwide Holdings sold the historic landmark to Beijing-based Anbang Insurance Group for a record breaking $1.95 billion, which is the largest acquisition of US realty by a Chinese buyer.

The hotel will still be operated by Hilton, but is expected to undergo major renovations in the coming years.

Opened in 1931 and offering some of the best views of the Manhattan skyline, the hotel is famed for its elite guest list from US presidents to celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor.

President Barack Obama books the Presidential Suite when he travels to New York City, following the tradition of every US president since Herbert Hoover. Next time the President stays at the hotel, it will be under Chinese ownership.

Made in USA, owned by China

The sale “will ensure that the Waldorf Astoria New York represents the brand’s world-class standards for generations to come,” President and CEO of Hilton Worldwide Christopher Nassetta said in a statement.

China will now own 121 Park Avenue, the latest acquisition in the East’s shopping spree in the West. China’s growing economy, stronger currency, and greater access to credit has enticed buyers to invest in the US.

“What we are witnessing is the greatest transfer of wealth in human history. America’s wealth, America’s productive capacity, the capital that has been accumulated over a couple of centuries of industrial growth, is being transferred to East. Asia and China in particular at a volume and speed that has never been seen before,” Curtis Ellis, Executive Director of the American Jobs Alliance, told RT.

Chinese insurers have more than $14 billion available to spend on real estate abroad according to a study by global commercial property and real estate adviser CBRE.

The General Motors building was bought by Chinese investor Zhang Xin last year. Photo taken March 8, 2013. (Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)

The General Motors building was bought by Chinese investor Zhang Xin last year. Photo taken March 8, 2013. (Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)

In Manhattan alone in recent years, Chinese investors have bought some of the city’s most famous buildings. Zhang Xin, the co-founder of China Ltd bought a stake in Manhattan’s GM building last year, and another Chinese company, Fosun International Ltd, picked up shares in the Chase Manhattan Plaza.

In 1989, Japanese Mitsubishi Estate Company bought a controlling stake in New York’s Rockefeller Center, also a staple in the city’s architecture.

In 1989, Japanese investor Mitsubishi Estate Company bought a 51% stake in the Rockefeller Center. (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

In 1989, Japanese investor Mitsubishi Estate Company bought a 51% stake in the Rockefeller Center. (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

Two is the limit

The Chinese realty boom in the US is that Beijing no longer permits individuals to own more than two properties in China.

China is the leading foreign buyer of US properties. According to the National Realtors Association, between March 2013 and March 2014, the Chinese spent $22 billion on US homes, with more than 75 percent of the purchases paid in cash.

The Chinese are also putting money into America’s most expensive homes that have an average price to half a million dollars. An average American house costs $200,000.

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