After the pandemic, the historical monuments in Venice are sold off to scrupulous financiers.
Well, to start out, it’s not true. A few days into the new year 2022, the news swept over the world… Bill Gates is shopping in Venice. He has bought one of the most famous and renominated ancient luxury hotels in Venice… Hotel Danieli. A marvelous palace facing Riva degli Schiavoni, and the Saint Mark’s basin right in front of the Saint Mark’s palace.
But, as said before, it’s not true.
I sometimes feel it’s kind of a trend. The idea of shouting out when the local, or national treasures are sold to foreigners. To evidentiate a threat of sorts, when our cultural inheritance is exported and put in the hands of people outside our borders… The others, those who do not have the same passion, and respect for buildings and artifacts of the past as we do.
… To scare us?
So, what actually happened with hotel Danieli?
First, it is important to understand the difference between ownership and management. Big hotels are often owned by someone but managed by someone else. And hotel Danieli is no different. Today the hotel is run by the biggest hotel chain in the world, the American Marriott group.
So, the idea was that Bill Gates was supposed to have bought it through Four Season Hotels and Resorts, a company controlled and owned by ¾ by the co-founder of Microsoft. The news started out in an article in the respectable newspaper Corriere della Sera. Actually, the paper only speaks about “investing” and “taking control of”, but immediately, through the telephone-game psychology, the intent became “buying”.
That alone should have alerted the conscientious reader. Four Seasons do not own their hotels themselves. They manage them. They have exclusive rights to operate the establishments with almost total control, but they don’t own them.
A complete refurbishment should take place financed by King Street Capital Management and designed by Pierre Yves Rochon. The bill was supposed to end at 30 million Euros.
But no, it wasn’t true…
Just a few days after the first notion of the deal, we were told that the deal was off… Or it was never on. The refurbishing for 30 million and all the rest was correct, but Bill Gates and Four Seasons were not involved. The ownership is staying in the hands of Gruppo Statuto, a (in this context…) small real estate company in Rome. They refinance hotel Danieli, one of the oldest and most extraordinary hotels issuing bonds worth 330 million Euros.
The Marriott management is also secured.
To be precise, we can’t know if any negotiations took place and in what way. But Bill Gates didn’t buy, that’s confirmed.
Who owns the luxury hotels in Venice?
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- The St. Regis Venice. The owner is Marriott international Inc. who also handles the management. The St. Regis hotels and resorts is a separate label but it’s owned by Marriott.
- Gritti palace. Yes, Marriott owns and manages that one too.
- Baglioni Hotel Luna. Baglioni Hotels S.p.A is the only Italian luxury brand that operates on an international level. They own and handle hotel Luna.
- Aman Venice – The owner is formally Pontwelly Holding Co. Ltd. but they, in turn own Aman Resorts, the manager of Aman Venice
- Hotel Bauer. It was bought by the Austrian real estate giant Signa Holding GmbH in 2020. The Bauer Palladio at Giudecca was sold last year to the French Airelles.
- Hotel Danieli. As stated, the owner is Gruppo Statuto and it’s managed by… Again, Marriott.
Luxury hotels vs small family hotels.
The times when hotels and restaurants were owned by the family who lived there… The family who had founded it, made it a thriving business, and now, after many years, could enjoy the fruits of their efforts. Well, those times are gone. At least in Venice.
That kind of accommodation still exists, not in Venice but elsewhere. In the Alps, for example, you can find just that. The small local establishment, cozy and cheap, for good or for bad, but with that special attention, only a family-run hotel can offer. They’re still out there, but in Venice, they are darn hard to find.
Who owns whatever in the world today?
Owning is an international mechanism. Very often we think of labels and brands as national, or at least strongly tied to a particular country. Chrysler, it’s an American car, right? Just like Fiat is Italian?
Well, not quite.
Chrysler was sold to Fiat in 2014 and together they formed the Chrysler Fiat Automobiles (CFA). In 2021 they merged with the French PSA group and formed the brand new company Stellantis N.V. This latter is now Dutch with the headquarters in Amsterdam. They produce cars and trucks of 15 brands such as Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Maserati, Citroën, Peugeot, Vauxhall, and Opel.
Similar structures can be found in almost every section of the business world. And with the internationally accessible stock markets all around the world, anybody can buy a small part of any company anywhere on the globe. Ownership can change from year to year, from day to day, and even from one hour to the other.
Is owning all that important anyway?
I don’t know… Is it? Is a Chrysler car different now when its headquarters are in the Netherlands? It’s still, at least some models, partly, made in the US. That hasn’t changed at all. Would hotel Danieli in any way be different if Bill Gates bought it? Does the signature on the business agreements and the tax residency have anything at all to do with how I appreciate my hotel room?
I think it does matter. But not always, and not very much.
We live in a new world. The borders are open, for people as well as for resources. It’s bad and it’s good, but we have to live with it. These days with the resurging pandemic, I could focus on the bad. The open borders make it easier for the virus to spread.
But I’m sure there will come a time when open borders can be looked upon with confidence and optimism. The way it should be.
I believe the world would be a better place if we stopped closing border crossings and raising walls, and started building bridges instead.
But I’m from Venice…