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The Waldorf Astoria Is Now Owned by the Chinese Government

Nick Mafi
With one swift move, New York’s Waldorf Astoria and JW Marriott Essex House and the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, D.C., are now controlled by Beijing

New York is a city brimming with well-known landmarks. Among them is the historic Waldorf Astoria hotel, which as of this week has a new owner. And it's not the typical real-estate tycoon one would expect. In fact, it's the Chinese government.

In a statement (in Chinese) released on February 23, China's Insurance Regulatory Commission detailed its reasons for taking over the property. What the report stated was that Anbang Insurance Group, a Beijing-based insurance, banking, and financial services firm and the owner of the hotel since 2014 (which recently tapped Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to renovate the landmark), is in danger of insolvency (in other words, the inability to pay its debts). What's more, Anbang chairman Wu Xiaohui is being being prosecuted on suspicion of committing white-collar crimes. China's quick takeover of Anbang's assets means that the government also controls several other high-profile American hotels, including the JW Marriott Essex House in Manhattan and the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington D.C., among others.

The Waldorf Astoria is no stranger to change. A lesser-known fact about the historic hotel is that the original location was in the footprint currently occupied by the Empire State Building. More recently, the hotel announced that a $1 billion renovation would see up to three quarters of its rooms transform into apartments.

New York's Waldorf Astoria hotel is famous for many reasons, not least of all for its iconic clock (which is located in the hotel lobby and recently went through a painstaking renovation). Yet the fact that it's now owned by the People's Republic of China might be the most interesting fact in the hotel's eventful history.

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