Saudi prince stalks Savoy hotel and Simpson's

The Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is in negotiations to buy London's world famous Savoy hotel and adjacent restaurant Simpson's from the Irish investment firm Quinlan Private, it emerged yesterday.

The news comes just five months after the Prince lost out to Quinlan in the battle for control of Savoy Group, which along with The Savoy and Simpson's owns Claridges, The Berkeley and The Connaught hotels.

Although Prince Alwaleed is believed to be keen to buy the whole portfolio, for which Quinlan paid £750m in April, the Irish investment firm is only interested in the possible sale of The Savoy and Simpson's. At the time of Quinlan's purchase, the restaurant and hotel were valued at £200m but analysts believe the Saudi businessman, who has joined forces with an arm of the HBOS group, will have to pay more if his bid is to be successful.

This should not be a problem for a man estimated to be worth about £12bn. Referred to as "the Warren Buffett of Saudi Arabia", his initial wealth came via inheritance. He is the nephew of King Fahd, and his assets have grown through a series of shrewd investments, the most successful of which has been his holding in the US banking giant Citigroup. In the hotels arena, he owns large stakes in the Four Seasons chain and the Plaza hotel, New York.

Derek Quinlan, the head of Quinlan Private, is from more humble beginnings. The former Dublin tax inspector has built up the investment company since 1989.Yesterday he said: "The potential to sell The Savoy itself presents a logical opportunity to make an immediate return on our initial investment and allow us to focus on the other hotels in the group."

The 263-room Savoy hotel was built in 1889 by Richard D'Oyly Carte, the founder of the Gilbert and Sullivan opera company, and has been the subject of many takeover battles.

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