Concerned about potential security risks, the U.S. government is taking a close look at last week’s sale of New York’s iconic Waldorf Astoria hotel to a Chinese insurance company.
U.S. officials said Monday they are reviewing the Oct. 6 purchase of the Waldorf by the Beijing-based Anbang Insurance Group, which bought the hotel from Hilton Worldwide for $1.95 billion. Terms of the sale allow Hilton to run the hotel for the next 100 years and call for “a major renovation” that officials say has raised eyebrows in Washington, where fears of Chinese eavesdropping and cyber espionage run high.
The officials also said the sale could have implications for the government’s longstanding relationship with the hotel, which serves as home to the American ambassador to the United Nations and hosts the president and hundreds of U.S. diplomats during the annual U.N. General Assembly.
“We are currently in the process of reviewing the details of the sale and the company’s long-term plans for the facility,” said Kurtis Cooper, a spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. He and other officials said decisions about the future of the U.S. relationship with the Waldorf would be made based on cost, Anbang’s long-term plans for the hotel, and the government’s needs and security concerns.
The officials said specifics of the renovation plan would be a key issue of the review.
“The State Department takes seriously the security of its personnel, their work spaces and official residences,” Cooper said. “We are constantly evaluating our security protocols and standard operating procedures to ensure the safety and security of our information and personnel.”
The department routinely warns U.S. diplomats in China about physical and electronic surveillance and tells American citizens in the country to be aware of similar risks, notably in hotels.
“Hotel rooms (including meeting rooms), offices, cars, taxis, telephones, Internet usage and fax machines may be monitored onsite or remotely, and personal possessions in hotel rooms, including computers, may be searched without your consent or knowledge,” according to the department’s latest travel advice for China. “Business travelers should be particularly mindful that trade secrets, negotiating positions and other business-sensitive information may be taken and shared with local interests.”
For more than 50 years, the State Department has leased a residence for the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. on the 42nd floor of the hotel’s Waldorf Towers. And, every September, the department takes over two floors of the Waldorf to serve as headquarters for the horde of U.S. diplomats that decamp from Washington for the U.N. General Assembly. During the session, the president spends several nights at the Waldorf.
U.S. law allows the department to rent the ambassador’s residence for a term of 10 years or less. The current lease expires next year with an option to renew it for one or two years.
It was not immediately clear if the review would affect decisions about the possible renewal of the existing lease.
Ending the government’s relationship with the Waldorf could be problematic and expensive, according to officials who note that numerous studies conducted during both Republican and Democratic administrations have concluded that it is cost effective and convenient.
Cooper noted that the U.N. ambassador’s residence must meet a long list of requirements, including appropriate housing, reception space, security, proximity to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and the U.N. headquarters.
3 thoughts on “US Eyes Sale of NY’s Waldorf Hotel to Chinese Firm”
Well we now have another communist corporation owned by the Chinese government. How special….. People need to wake up…….First is was the free trade zones with no US admission now we have the communist government buying business. Remember anything they own is communist territory. Stop the support of these companies selling to the Chinese….
We will be taken over from with in……
They’re selling the place because it’s crawling with bedbugs, which is something that guests shouldn’t have to bring home from a $2000 per night hotel, and the “major renovation” they’re talking about probably means battling the infestation.
However…… In my life as a carpenter, one job I was on was an ambassador’s offices a few blocks from the U.N. One morning we showed up to work to discover that a few boards of sheet rock were hung for us, and we were told to ignore it, rather than complain about scabs coming in at night. I just assumed that the C.I.A. put a few things in that wall that they wanted to keep hidden.
Does that mean Waldorf Salad will be made with lychees instead of walnuts?