Luxury hotels court battle: The oligarch with a taste for beauty, and a very ugly spat with an octogenarian

Fight for control of ultra-luxury hotel chain ensnares a former Tory party official

As an ultra-luxury hotel chain whose name means “peace” in Sanskrit, Aman Resorts has long made a virtue of offering discrete hideaways to billionaires and celebrities happy to part with at least £1,000 a night in return for exquisitely appointed seclusion.

But while potentates and plutocrats – known as “Amanjunkies” – have continued to steer their yachts and private jets in the direction of Aman’s 26 boltholes from Bali to Venice, the owners of the business have set aside its bywords of discretion and harmony for a very public bust-up over just who is in control of its network of expensive spas and villas.

A High Court judge in London today delivered a rebuke to one of the lead characters in the dispute, the Russian property tycoon Vladislav Doronin, a former boyfriend of supermodel Naomi Campbell, by insisting that he stand down as chief executive of the joint venture which bought Aman Resorts in January this year for $358m (£208m).

In an interim ruling in the legal clash between Mr Doronin and his co-investor the American entrepreneur Omar Amanat, Catherine Newman, QC, accused representatives of the Russian of “needlessly and inappropriately aggressive conduct” when Adrian Zecha – the 81-year-old founder of Aman Resorts – was locked out of his Singapore home as part of the disagreement.

Mr Zecha, who was also locked out of his office and has claimed he was the subject of “intimidating conduct”, has now been reinstated to both his home and title as chief executive of the resorts. Such is the high-octane nature of the deal between Mr Doronin, who made his fortune in Moscow’s combustible property market, it is alleged by Mr Amanat in papers before the High Court that the Russian told him after their joint takeover deal: “If I feel you tried to screw me, I will hunt you down and shoot you.”

The proceedings also encompass London-based businessman Johan Eliasch, a former deputy treasurer of the Conservative Party and one-time adviser to Gordon Brown while he was Prime Minister, who is alleged to have worked with Mr Doronin to stage a hostile takeover of the Anan chain.

Mr Eliasch, who is now a member of the London Mayor Boris Johnson’s business advisory council, was a third “indirect investor” in the deal. Mr Amanat and his company, Peak Hotels, had believed Mr Eliasch had no connection with Mr Doronin, the ruling said.

Johan Eliasch is a former deputy treasurer for the Tories (Getty) Johan Eliasch is a former deputy treasurer for the Tories (Getty)
The judge wrote: “Peak believed that Mr Eliasch was independent of Mr Doronin and Peak now believes that such was never the case, rather Mr Eliasch and Mr Doronin are in fact old friends working together to effect a hostile takeover.”

The legal dogfight has its roots in a breakdown in relations between Mr Doronin, 44, and Mr Amanat, whose investments have included a stake in the studio which made the vampire drama Twilight, after they beat suitors including French luxury goods giant Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH) to buy Aman Resorts.

Founded in 1988 by Mr Zecha, the scion of a wealthy Indonesian famil, Princess Diana is said to have been a fan while tales of the lengths staff go to meet guests’ every whim are legend.

Following a marathon 10-hour board meeting in April, it was abruptly announced that Mr Zecha was stepping down from the business and Mr Doronin was taking over as chief executive with Mr Eliasch becoming chairman.

Mr Zecha acknowledges that he had discussed resigning from his role as chief executive and chairman the night before the meeting but insists he did not formally step down and in any event had been promised a continuing role in the hotel chain.

Judge Newman said that there appeared to be a “clear breach of contract” in removing Mr Zecha before a deadline at the end of this month, adding: “Mr Doronin has no proper basis for calling himself CEO as matters stand.”

The judge said it was possible a full trial of the case, due in September, may find that Mr Doronin’s company had deployed “strong arm tactics” to take control of the hotels. She added she had seen no evidence to substantiate claims against Mr Zecha, including an allegation that he was facing a demand to repay bills run up at Aman hotels.

Both Mr Amanat and Mr Zecha said toight that they were “delighted” with the court ruling. In a statement, Mr Doronin said he would respect the judgment.

The oligarch - Vladislav Doronin

From his Moscow home designed by Zaha Hadid to the requisite super-yacht, Vladislav Doronin (below) has all the trappings of an oligarch determined to enjoy the fruits of his labour. His relationship with Naomi Campbell in 2008 was billed as the point at which both the British supermodel and the Russian property magnate, worth a reputed £1.5bn, would settle down. The love affair faded and Mr Doronin has since been linked with other models.

But the relationship provided a documented link with fellow entrepreneur Johan Eliasch, the Swedish-born chairman and chief executive of the sportswear brand Head. Mr Eliasch, who is also named in the litigation arising from the battle for control of Aman Resorts, was among the guests on board Mr Doronin’s yacht when he invited Ms Campbell and friends to join him off St Tropez in 2008. (Picture credit: Getty)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine