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December 20, 1985 - Image 36

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-12-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

36 Friday, December 20, 1985 THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

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With Hyatt's Pritzker

BY EDWIN BLACK
Special to. The Jewish News

The Arab boycott against
companies doing business with
Israel is a flop because it is not
supported by the major Arab
entrepreneurs themselves. This
is nowhere better illustrated
than the hotel industry.
True, every so often a hotel
chain prints up a brochure and
deletes any reference to their Is-
rael property. The most recent
scandal was when British Air-
ways hand-stickered hundreds of
thousands of its in-flight maga-
zines to block out a reference to
Jerusalem in a Sheraton ad. But
these are isolated examples de-
signed to publicly mollify Arab
boycott officials. The reality is
that the anti-Israel economic
strategy fails because Arab
entrepreneurs are more in-
terested in business than in
boycotts.
Hyatt Hotels is proof positive.
A dominant hotel chain in the
Arab and Moslem world with
about a dozen lavish properties
stretching from Indonesia to
Saudia Arabia, the Hyatt chain
thrives despite the fact that its
owner — Jay Pritzker — is a
highly visible supporter of Is-
rael. A major Israel Bonds buyer
and contributor to Federation
campaigns, Pritzker has fi-
nanced Israeli hospitals, special
projects at the Weizmann Insti-
tute and many other Jewish and
Israeli causes.
Reached at his Chicago home
•for a rare interview, Pritzker
explained, "Remember, Hyatt
doesn't actually own any of
these hotels. We only manage
them for two, three, sometimes
four percent of the gross. Var-
ious Arab and Moslem
businessmen own them, and in
some cases those businessmen
are actually the heads of Arab
states. Frankly, all they ask is
that we do a good job running
them."
In London, for example, - Hyatt
operates the Carleton Tower,
which Pritzker explained, "was
formerly owned by a Jewish
family, and was then sold to a
prominent Arab personality.
This individual is very nice to
deal with, and the fact that
Jews manage his hotel doesn't
bother him at all. In fact, he
once told me that there are still
Jews in his country, and they
live in peace and maintain a
synagogue. If I run his hotel
profitably, what does he care?
All he really wants to know is
do we have a chef, can we get
another one when the chef quits,
do we have the personnel to run
the hotel, and do we have the
reservations system to fill the
rooms. The answer is yes."
Pritzker admitted that some
years ago his firm did receive
some "minor threats" vis a vis
the Arab boycott, "but they were
so insignificant. I can't even re-
member what they were."
On the contrary, Hyatt's
standing in the Arab and Mos-
lem world has earned it a spe-
cial niche as the hotelier to
Arab royalty. "The Sultan of
Brunei," is a perfect example,

says Pritzker. "when he built
his new palace, a fabulous place,
we were called in. It was $50
million in furnishings. Then we
catered his reception, and that
ran $5-10 million."
Thus far, Hyatt has experi-
enced problems only once, in
Iran, where they managed three
properties. "Two of them were
owned by the Shah through his
Pahlevi Foundation, and the
third was owned by the Minister
of Finance," recalled Pritzker.
When the Shah's government
fell, the hotels were seized, and
Hyatt managers barely escaped.
"In fact, one of them was ulti-
mately thrown in jail," recalled
Pritzker. "He was making his
way out, and at the airport they
examined his luggage and found
a photograph of him and the
Shah together. That was enough
to lock him up." The manager
was eventually retrieved and
spirited out of the country.

Anti-Israel economic
strategy fails
because Arab
entrepreneurs are
more interested in
business than
boycotts.

Pritzker says that to this day
he doesn't know what has be-
come of the three properties.
Pritzker finds it ironic that
despite "many friends in Israel
and few if any friends in Arab
nations," Hyatt has numerous
hotels in Arab lands and has
never established a foothold in
Israel. Some have falsely be-
lieved it was to avoid friction
with Arab clients. "Not so," says
Pritzker. "It isn't that we don't
want to be in Israel. It's just
that the people who develop the
hotels haven't asked us."
Actually, Hyatt did briefly
manage one Tel Aviv beachfront
property. But the financially
troubled hotel quickly went out
of business. For years, Hyatt
has been rumored to be opening
a unit in Haifa. Sources indicate
that project will probably never
see daylight. But Pritzer does
expect a hotel to finally open on
Mt. Scopus next year. "Well,
we've been talking about it for
about 10 years. The project was
originally developed by an in-
vestment group, and then we
ran into all sorts of
environmental problems. It was
too tall for its location. So it had
to be re-designed and then a
group of Mexican Jews took over
its financing and the zoning
question.
"Really, I find it harder to do
business in Israel than the Arab

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