Grand open­ing of celeb ho­tel halted by le­gal wran­gle

The Herald (South Africa) - - NEWS - Aron Hy­man

IT was the grand open­ing Cape Town’s glit­terati had been wait­ing for – and wait­ing and wait­ing.

But celebrity busi­ness­man Nicky van der Walt and his model wife Lee-Ann Lieben­berg will not be un­veil­ing the new Ritz Ho­tel on the At­lantic Seaboard any time soon.

The Ritz Plaza, which owns the prop­erty, has ap­proached the high court in Cape Town to have the ho­tel’s man­age­ment com­pany liq­ui­dated.

The man­age­ment com­pany is rent­ing the prop­erty.

Last year, Van der Walt and Lieben­berg re­vealed that she had swapped her stilet­tos for a work suit to help him turn the ho­tel into a jewel.

The ho­tel’s re­volv­ing restau­rant had once been re­ferred to as a stranded UFO and it had not at­tracted many vis­i­tors.

To bring back some shine‚ the cou­ple se­cured cel­e­brated South African chef Ber­tus Bas­son to run the flag­ship restau­rant‚ while Black Cof­fee was signed as a res­i­dent DJ.

But on Mon­day, Van der Walt was in court with 60 ho­tel em­ploy­ees.

About 47 work­ers‚ rep­re­sented by SATAWU‚ went to court to join as a party in the liq­ui­da­tion pro­ceed­ings.

Ad­vo­cate Lance Burger‚ act­ing for SATAWU‚ told act­ing judge Taswell Papier that many, if not all the work­ers would starve if they did not find jobs.

The union needed time to con­sider its op­tions.

Papier or­dered pro­ceed­ings post­poned un­til De­cem­ber 14.

Van der Walt said that they were hop­ing to fin­ish con­struc­tion and re­fur­bish­ment by De­cem­ber.

“We’ve been in a dis­pute with the land­lord of Ritz Plaza since last year be­cause he de­layed us last year and we would have opened in De­cem­ber last year.

“He brought an ap­pli­ca­tion which we op­posed. We are busy with re­struc­tur­ing,” Van der Walt said.

“Ob­vi­ously we have SATAWU on our side and we also have some of the con­trac­tors on our side. It’s in no one’s in­ter­est to grant liq­ui­da­tion.”

SATAWU re­gional sec­re­tary Crosby Booi wel­comed the post­pone­ment say­ing they were con­cerned about job se­cu­rity‚ es­pe­cially for some of the older work­ers – some of whom have worked at the ho­tel for nearly 30 years.

Van der Walt said they con­tin­ued to pay the work­ers dur­ing the ren­o­va­tions.

Last year, the Sun­day Times re­ported that Lieben­berg and Van der Walt‚ chief ex­ec­u­tive of the lux­ury hos­pi­tal­ity group Shimmy Lux­ury Col­lec­tion and owner of the pop­u­lar Shimmy Beach Club‚ pumped R110-mil­lion into the ho­tel.

POWER COU­PLE: Nicky van der Walt and wife Lee-Ann Lieben­berg

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