Te Uns­top­pable rise of the Pe­nin­su­la / L’ir­ré­sis­tible as­cen­sion du Pe­nin­su­la


L'officiel Shopping - - Table Of Contents - BY THI­BAULT DE MON­TAI­GU

The me­ga-luxu­ry Pe­nin­su­la ho­tel has ope­ned its doors near the Arc de Triomphe. Of course, all of Pa­ris and the in­ter­na­tio­nal jet set have come kno­cking … but do the ve­ry beau­ti­ful people know the his­to­ry of this most recent ad­di­tion to the Hong Kong chain and it links to the Ka­doo­rie fa­mi­ly, who have gone from the plains of Iraq to the lawns of Bu­ckin­gham Pa­lace?

Se­ven years of Her­cu­lean work, 40,000 hand­smoo­thed gold leaves, 100,000 cut-to-mea­sure slates, not coun­ting the thou­sands and thou­sands of hours to chi­sel, to the nea­rest mil­li­me­ter, the fo­wers, bows, and other rib­bons of the white stone, se­vens­to­ry high, 10,000 m2 fa­cade on the ma­jes­tic Ave­nue Klé­ber. When the Ka­doo­ries inau­gu­rate a new ho­tel, they don’t skimp on the num­bers. And the Pe­nin­su­la Pa­ris, which ope­ned at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe on Au­gust 1, is no ex­cep­tion. Tis luxu­ry li­ner, aground on the Parisian si­de­walk, means to crush the com­pe­ti­tion from other luxu­ry es­ta­blish­ments re­cent­ly ar­ri­ved in the ca­pi­tal, like the Royal Mon­ceau, the Shan­gri-La, and even the Man­da­rin Orien­tal. And for this, just one word is nee­ded: one-up­man­ship. Te res­to­ra­tion of the Belle Epoque buil­ding, where Ger­sh­win com­po­sed An Ame­ri­can in Pa­ris and where, in 1973, the peace ac­cords en­ding the Viet­nam War were si­gned, has cost a mere 430 mil­lion eu­ros. In­clu­ding the ac­qui­si­tion of the buil­ding, the to­tal cost is around 800 mil­lion eu­ros. Un­heard of in ho­tel circles! But no­thing is too good for the Ka­doo­rie fa­mi­ly, who have drawn on the sup­port of Ka­ta­ra Hos­pi­ta­li­ty, a spe­cia­list ho­tel group from Qa­tar, which has an 80% stake, in or­der to ofer this gem, the tenth in the crown of the le­gen­da­ry Pe­nin­su­la Ho­tels, but the frst in Eu­rope.


All are a sym­bol for this Je­wish Ira­qi fa­mi­ly who star­ted from no­thing more than ca­pi­ta­lism with an Asian fa­vor. El­ly Ka­doo­rie, grand­fa­ther of Mi­chael, the cur­rent pre­sident of the Hong­kong and Shan­ghai Ho­tels group, to which the Pe­nin­su­la be­longs, lef Bagh­dad at the end of the 1870s, in the wake of a se­vere fa­mine. He tra­ve­led with just his clothes, a hand­ful of rubles, and a pa­ckage of pro­vi­sions pre­pa­red by his mo­ther, like the man­na Hea­ven pro­vi­ded the Is­rae­lites with du­ring their jour­ney through the de­sert. First stop, Bas­ra, where he wor­ked as a clerk for a small sa­la­ry, then Bom­bay, where his health suf­fe­red great­ly due to the cli­mate, and fnal­ly, Hong Kong, where he di­sem­bar­ked afer a grue­ling three-month ocean voyage. Cou­sins who had fed Iraq se­ve­ral years ear­lier, the Sas­soon fa­mi­ly, wel­co­med the am­bi­tious young man and took him un­der their wing. Tey took ad­van­tage of the ope­ning of the Chi­nese mar­ket to the West fol­lo­wing the Trea­ty of Nan­king in 1842, to make their for­tune through the im­por­ting of In­dian cot­ton, but most­ly through opium, the drug that in a few years had made Hong Kong, in­ha­bi­ted by fsher­men and char­coal pro­du­cers, the ri­chest ci­ty in Chi­na and the Far East’s eco­no­mic po­we­rhouse. Te young Ka­doo­rie qui­ck­ly got in­to the spi­rit and tra­ve­led all over Chi­na while lear­ning the ropes. Alas! A dark sto­ry of a bot­tle of di­sin­fec­tant, sto­len du­ring an epi­de­mic got back to the Sas­soons, and meant that El­ly had to again start from scratch. But ne­ver mind! He now had bu­si­ness in his blood, and Hong Kong at the turn of the last cen­tu­ry loo­ked like a new El­do­ra­do. He hel­ped his bro­ther join him and they mul­ti­plied their en­dea­vors: he ac­ted as stock­bro­ker, in­ves­ting in the Vic­to­ria Peak fu­ni­cu­lar, be­co­ming a sha­re­hol­der in the new com­pa­ny Chi­na Light and Po­wer, which sup­plied elec­tri­ci­ty to Kow­loon’s frst street­lights. But it was the ope­ning of the Pe­nin­su­la Ho­tel in De­cem­ber 1928 that si­gna­led their ar­ri­val. Te most luxurious ho­tel east of the Suez, as le­gend would have it. A le­gend that owes much to its ex­tra­va­gant lob­by, le­gions of staf, and its fa­mous feet of green Rolls Royce Sil­ver Sha­dows. It was in one of these that the sul­try Maud Adams took of in when James Bond tai­led her from a Ma­cau ca­si­no to Kow­loon in Te Man with the Gol­den Gun, stop­ping in front of the Pe­nin­su­la, where they both slip in­side. For­ty years la­ter, James Bond is whi­ter and hea­vier, but the Pe­nin­su­la re­mains. In 2013, to celebrate the 85th an­ni­ver­sa­ry of its birth, the ow­ners of­fe­red the grand la­dy, the incarnation of the gil­ded myth of Hong Kong, a light fa­ce­lift to her fa­cade. Cost of the ope­ra­tion: 64 mil­lion US dol­lars. This is the hall­mark of the Ka­doo­ries: spend ti­re­less­ly to main­tain the le­vel of ex­cel­lence so as to re­coup the in­vest­ment over se­ve­ral years. With two watch­words: ex­cellent ser­vice (for example, the Pe­nin­su­la Pa­ris has 600 staff for 200 rooms) and the ve­ry la­test tech­no­lo­gy. It was with this in mind that Mi­chael Ka­doo­rie laun­ched an in­dus­trial area south of the ci­ty, with its own la­bo­ra­to­ry to de­ve­lop and test ser­vices for the ta­blets found in Pe­nin­su­la rooms around the world. A stra­te­gy that pays, as shown by the vi­ta­li­ty of the hol­ding com­pa­ny, Hong­kong and Shan­gai Ho­tels, whose share prices have ri­sen 42% in five years. A hol­ding com­pa­ny that, in ad­di­tion to the ten Pe­nin­su­la ho­tels, owns se­ve­ral buil­dings in Hong Kong, Bang­kok, and Ho Chi Minh Ci­ty. Add to that the avia­tion com­pa­ny Me­tro­jet and a 35% stake in the CLP group (that sup­plies 75% of Hong Kong’s elec­tri­ci­ty and owns shares in po­wer plants in Chi­na, Aus­tra­lia, and In­dia), and you un­ders­tand why the Ka­doo­rie fa­mi­ly is 152nd in the list of lar­gest for­tunes ac­cor­ding to Forbes ma­ga­zine, with as­sets es­ti­ma­ted at 8.9 mil­lion US dol­lars.


Tis em­pire was near­ly wi­ped out when the Ja­pa­nese in­va­ded Hong Kong in 1941. Te fa­mi­ly was im­pri­so­ned in a camp while the Pe­nin­su­la be­came the Ja­pa­nese ar­my’s head­quar­ters. El­ly died short­ly be­fore the end of the war, lea­ving his two sons, La­wrence and Ho­race to re­build the fa­mi­ly ho­nor. Alas! Te si­tua­tion be­came more com­pli­ca­ted in 1949 when the com­mu­nist Mao Ze­dong came to po­wer, sei­zing the Ka­doo­rie’s pro­per­ty in Shan­ghai. Once again, eve­ry­thing was back to ze­ro. But such a chal­lenge was not going to scare the Ka­doo­rie fa­mi­ly. Close to the co­lo­nial go­vern­ment of Hong Kong, they un­der­took to re­vive the is­land with mas­sive in­vest­ment in construc­tion and ener­gy. In 1951, they crea­ted Ka­doo­rie Agri­cul­tu­ral Aid As­so­cia­tion with the go­vern­ment to help the tens of thou­sands of Chi­nese re­fu­gees feeing Mao’s re­gime. A phi­lan­thro­pic ac­ti­vi­ty that conti­nued through the rest of the cen­tu­ry, as wit­nes­sed by the ma­ny schools and uni­ver­si­ties in Iraq, In­dia, and Pa­les­tine fun­ded by the Ka­doo­rie fa­mi­ly. La­wrence was knigh­ted by Queen Eli­za­beth II in 1981, be­fore be­co­ming ac­ti­ve­ly in­vol­ved in the han­do­ver of Hong Kong to Chi­na in 1997. Te fa­mi­ly and the Middle King­dom bu­ried the hat­chet to si­gn a joint ven­ture to build a nu­clear po­wer plant at Daya Bay.

Per­haps this is the se­cret of this fa­mi­ly, so sha­ken by his­to­ry: constant adap­ta­tion to its en­vi­ron­ment, as the ar­chi­tec­ture and style of their ho­tels at­tests, all part of the lo­cal land­scape, like the Pe­nin­su­la Pa­ris, res­to­red thanks to do­zens of French ar­ti­sans. Te next step: Lon­don, where Mi­chael Ka­doo­rie, La­wrence’s son, has bought two buil­dings over­loo­king the gar­dens of Bu­ckin­gham Pa­lace for a lit­tle more than 167 mil­lion eu­ros (the other half of the land is ow­ned by the Gros­ve­nor Bri­tain and Ire­land group). In pri­vate, Mi­chael confdes that he’s been looking for the ideal site for more than thir­ty years. A de­mand for ri­gor that he has tried to ins­till in his three chil­dren – Na­ta­lie who works for the Pe­nin­su­la Hong Kong, as well Bet­ti­na and Phi­lip, both stu­dying in the States, but who, like their fa­ther, frst went to the ve­ry chic Swiss boar­ding school, Ro­sey. Te chal­lenge is daun­ting for the fourth ge­ne­ra­tion of this fa­mi­ly, who in a lit­tle over a cen­tu­ry have lef the de­sert plains of Iraq to ar­rive at Bu­ckin­gham Pa­lace’s fre­sh­ly cut lawns.

“Per­haps this is the se­cret of this fa­mi­ly, so sha­ken by his­to­ry: constant adap­ta­tion to its en­vi­ron­ment, as the ar­chi­tec­ture and style of their ho­tels at­tests, all part of the lo­cal land­scape, like the Pe­nin­su­la Pa­ris, res­to­red thanks to do­zens of French ar­ti­sans.”

Black and gold lu­rex dress, lea­ther bag with gold de­tails, black shoes with bu­ckles, all SALVATORE FER­RA­GA­MO, pâte de verre ear­rings and me­tal ne­ck­lace all CHA­NEL.

Ho­race, El­ly, and La­wrence Ka­doo­rie.

The Pe­nin­su­la Pa­ris, to­day.

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