ubai tycoon Ahsan Hassan Darvesh has snapped up the posh sea-facing Ambassador Hotel in Bantry Bay, which he plans to partially demolish to make way for a bling new block that his company plans to sell for a combined R750 million.
Darvesh fell in love with the hotel when he stayed there while studying towards a degree in finance at the University of Cape Town two years ago. His family business bought the place for an undisclosed sum after two years of negotiations with its former owner.
The new residential development for the ultrarich, called Aurum, will consist of 23 luxury apartments with wooden decks and private swimming pools.
Some will have kitchens with imported fittings by top design houses Armani and Fendi.
The development will span two blocks on either side of Victoria Road in the wealthy playground suburb of Bantry Bay.
Behind the new project is Middle East-based family business Darvesh, which has interests in technology and trading, and a reported global turnover of more than $1 billion (R12.6 billion).
“At the time, I stayed at this hotel for two months. The people were so courteous. It really felt like a home,” Ahsan Darvesh told a ballgown- and bow tie-clad crowd at the hotel’s former Koi Restaurant on Thursday evening.
A-listers on the guest list included recently retired Vodacom chief operating officer of international business Romeo Kumalo, Viglietti Motors chief executive Mervyn Eagles and Italian exfootballer Nicola Caricola, the former boyfriend of local model Tanya Fourie. At the launch, guests sipped on nonalcoholic pink mojitos and snacked on braised lamb as candles flickered and waves crashed on rocks below.
Sean Penn and his ex-fiancée, Charlize Theron, hosted the wrap party of his film The Last Face at the popular sushi restaurant last year. But now, the Ambassador Hotel and Koi are shutting up shop.
“Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It has beautiful people and beautiful buildings. We want to add to that,” said Darvesh.
The jet set have to prepare themselves for a lot of bling in the new development.
“People say that less is more. I don’t necessarily agree. Luxury is important; it appeals to all of us.”
In 2008, Darvesh announced plans to collaborate with Ivana Trump – ex-wife of maverick US presidential candidate Donald – on posh property deals, including the Le Diamond Ivana Trump towers at the Dubai Waterfront. This project fell through and now they’re turning to South Africa instead.
Darvesh’s father, Hassan Miya Sulaiman Darvesh, chairperson of the family business, was also at the Cape Town launch. He opened the evening with a quote by former US president Abraham Lincoln: “The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself.”
Darvesh describes Bantry Bay as “strategically situated ... with excellent wind shelter from the Cape Town southeaster and spectacular views over the Atlantic Ocean”, a suburb which is “the place of choice for affluent property investors, local and foreign alike”.
The wealthy contingent from Dubai seemed unperturbed that Bantry Bay was cloaked in complete darkness due to load shedding on Thursday evening.
After the launch, the Darvesh family celebrated their new business venture at Café Chic in Gardens, the restaurant of notorious Irish chef Conrad Gallagher.
Meanwhile, the Ambassador Hotel’s previous owner, Mark Berlusconi, looked sad. “It was with a very, very heavy heart that I agreed to sell.”
A notice at the hotel says: “Please note that Koi restaurant and bar is no longer in operation ... We would like to thank you for your loyal patronage and support. The Ambassador has been a special place.”
The final bed night for guests will be at the end of November.
Well-heeled property investors will be able to buy Aurum apartments off plan from October.
Price tags are expected to run into the tens of millions.
Ahsan Hassan Darvesh