5 Great Hotel Feuds in L.A. History

LA Weekly, Los Angeles, News

Photo Credit: Voice Places

Originally published on The Informer, LA Weekly’s news blog. For original, please refer to: 5 Great Hotel Feuds in L.A. History – Public Spectacle.

The Huntley Hotel won’t be giving the Fairmont Miramar high marks for hospitality on a comment card any time soon.

The two Santa Monica-based hotels are having a not-so-private tiff, as first reported by theSanta Monica Mirror. The Huntley, which objects to the Miramar’s expansion plans, is accusing the Miramar team of making false statements on fliers posted in Santa Monica and a website called Huntleyfacts.com. Meanwhile, the Miramar refers to the Huntley’s efforts as “a smear campaign.”

The Miramar brass says all of its statements are totally factual, thank you. Its team has no plans to comply with Huntley’s takedown request.

In honor of this latest bitchfest, here are five great hotel feuds in L.A. history.

5. Fairmont Miramar vs. The Huntley
So just what is this hot gossip the Miramar is writing on the metaphorical bathroom stall wall? Huntley attorney Rick Zbur claimed in a July 16 letter that the Miramar owner, Alan Epstein, had engaged in a “defamatory smear campaign” against the Huntley. The aforementioned fliers and website accuse the Huntley of “questionable political practices” and running its own smear campaign against the Miramar.

The issue at the heart of this feud is the Miramar Plan, a proposed expansion and revamping of the hotel, which was first established in 1924. Though there would ordinarily be nothing to judge about a 89-year-old who wants to feel young and beautiful again, the expansion would involve building a 261-foot art deco tower — which would become the second-tallest building in Santa Monica. The neighbors aren’t thrilled, and that includes the Huntley, whose panoramic penthouse view would presumably be affected.

The Huntley wants to take part in the conversation about “Santa Monica’s future,” according to Zbur’s letter. It accuses the Miramar of unfairly keeping it out of the debate. Meanwhile the Miramar’s Huntleyfacts website alleges the rival hotel’s president, Sohrab Sassounian, has spent millions trying to fight the Miramar plan and keep competition at bay.

WINNER: To be determined. Neither hotel is backing down.

4. Disney Hotels vs. Unions
Ah, Disneyland, the happiest place on Earth — unless you’re a union, that is. After labor contracts for three Disneyland hotels expired in early 2008, renegotiating said contracts didn’t go swimmingly, to say the least. What followed was a lengthy saga of walkouts and strikes from the then-contractless hotel workers, including a week-long hunger strike. One particularly memorable incident saw 28 protesters, some dressed up as Disney characters, arrested for refusing to comply with officers. You can bet it was hard for parents to explain to their kids why Mickey and Minnie were being handcuffed.

After four years of failed negotiations (the O.C. Register has a good timeline of events), about 80 percent of members of Unite Here 11, the labor union that represents, among others, Disneyland hotel workers, voted to ratify a new contract in late 2011.

WINNER: Tough call, but Disney. Though the union got a new contract, Disney managed to put off putting 2,100 employees on contract for four years, and managed to avoid any major bad publicity. Gotta give it to the Mouse House.

3. Four Seasons vs. Four Seasons
If these hotel feuds were a soap opera (called Hotels California, obviously), then the Four Seasons would be the character with an evil twin.

In 2009, Genton Property Group had plans approved for the Wetherly Luxury Residences, a 12-story building that features 55 condos and townhouses just outside of Beverly Hills. The group finally decided to commence with work this year, but hit a snag: the project is also called the Four Seasons Residences, which ticked off the neighboring Four Seasons Hotel. Bizarrely, both projects licensed the Four Seasons name, but are unrelated.

In March, Genton accused the Four Seasons Hotel of stalling the new development despite a deal worked out in 2009 that reduced the number of units and included a $15 million payout to the hotel. Genton called the hotel’s actions a “shakedown” in a court filing.

WINNER: To be determined. If we had to bet money, though, we’d go with a split: the hotel will get the residences to drop the name “Four Seasons,” but construction will march on.

2. Boeskys vs. Slatkins
Strictly speaking, this isn’t really a hotel feud. But it’s a) too good not to mention, and b) centers around a hotel — the Beverly Hills Hotel, to be exact. In 1979, real estate magnate Ben Silberstein passed away and left the Beverly Hills Hotel to his family, including sons-in-law Burt Slatkin and Ivan Boesky. The Boeskys and Slatkins disagreed on whether or not to sell the hotel, and the fight led to an all-out family feud.

The turning point in the feud came when Boesky’s wife, Seema, who owned 52 percent of the hotel, finally agreed to a sale with her estranged sister, Muriel Slatkin, who owned the other 48 percent with her husband and sons. The hotel was sold in late 1986 to Marvin Davis for $135 million.

WINNER: Davis. He may not have been a formal participant in the feud, but he flipped the hotel and sold it to the Sultan of Brunei for a $65 million profit the next year. That makes him the biggest winner of all.

1. Ma Maison vs. Basically Everyone
Every great soap opera needs the antagonist everyone loves to hate, and in the late-’80s, Ma Maison Sofitel Hotel in Beverly Hills would have been the grand bitch of Hotels California.

First, Ma Maison had to battle neighbors for a year to get them to clear the way for the building’s liquor license. The homeowner groups were worried about potential parking issues, and wanted to force Ma Maison to create more spots. Neighbors received $250,000 for supporting the liquor license, while $800,000 had to be put aside for additional parking.

The fight wasn’t over yet, though, as rival Severyn Ashkenazy soon publicly questioned the then-six-month-old hotel’s liquor license, again over the amount of parking available. Though the homeowners stayed out of it this time, the feud between Ashkenazy and Ma Maison developer Sheldon Gordon raged on. It was rumored that the feud went beyond just this issue, and was actually a years-old brawl.

WINNER: Ma Maison. The hotel is still standing despite all opposition, now simply called the Sofitel Hotel.

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