London Court Rules Doronin Must Step Down as Aman Resorts CEO

By July 14, 2014 September 1st, 2017 No Comments

Written by: Craig Karmin | Wall Street Journal


Ruling Reinstates Founder Adrian Zecha as Chief Executive


A feud between two partners for control of the superluxury hotel operator Amanresorts International Pte. Ltd. took a turn after a London judge reached a decision on Monday that one of the partners, Russian property tycoon Vladislav Doronin, must step down as chief executive.

The judge’s decision, which was reviewed on Monday by The Wall Street Journal, was a victory for Omar Amanat. The U.S. entrepreneur acquired Amanresorts with Mr. Doronin at the start of this year before they had a falling out over control of the company.

Tensions boiled over in May when Mr. Doronin said that the company’s founder and chief executive, Adrian Zecha, was stepping down. Mr. Doronin said he would assume the role of CEO.

The ruling from a London High Court reinstates Mr. Zecha, 81 years old, as chief executive. Mr. Amanat alleged that Mr. Doronin didn’t have board approval to remove Mr. Zecha and brought the case for the U.K.-incorporated company to court in London.

Mr. Doronin, founder of Moscow-based real-estate development firm Capital Group, said that he disagreed with the decision and there is a process for appealing the judgment. He will “continue to strongly challenge the underlying facts of this matter, with which we unequivocally disagree,” his statement said. “We look forward to a full hearing on the issues when we will have the opportunity to present our case.”

Mr. Amanat said, “I am delighted that Adrian is now back in charge. He will remain in charge until such time a suitable successor can be found. It is essential to me that Adrian retires in a manner of his own choosing.”

Mr. Zecha, an Indonesian-born hotelier, former journalist at Time magazine and onetime magazine publisher, launched Aman in 1988. His luxury bungalows offer guests the feeling of staying in a private villa, often with their own pool. Properties sometimes lacked modern amenities such as TVs and even lobbies, while trying to replicate the local architecture and culture.

The 26 Aman resorts world-wide command some of the highest room rates of any brand, with daily rates sometimes exceeding $1,000. The brand has developed a cultlike following among certain well-heeled travelers, referred to as Amanjunkies.

In 2007, Mr. Zecha sold the company to Indian real-estate company DLF Group for $250 million. DLF put the company up for sale last year, and the venture between Messrs. Doronin and Amanat prevailed with a $358 million offer. Carlyle Group LP, French luxury goods company LVMH Mo√ęt Hennessy Louis Vuitton and a Chinese state-backed company also expressed interest in Aman, people familiar with the matter said.

Mr. Zecha never made any public statement about leaving but privately told people he wanted to keep the job, people familiar with the matter said.

“I welcome the Court’s ruling and am grateful to have an opportunity to ensure that Amanresorts, a company for which I have loved and nurtured for the last two decades, will continue to be a world-class brand with a devoted following,” Mr. Zecha said in an email from his home in Singapore.

The court’s ruling said the company couldn’t take any steps to remove Mr. Zecha as CEO “until 31st July 2014 (or such time as he is replaced by the Board of Directors if later).” Two of the board’s four directors are controlled by Mr. Amanat. His support means that Mr. Zecha isn’t likely to be removed by the board until he wants to step down, people familiar with the matter said.

Mr. Amanat previously founded and sold online trading companies, including startups to Charles Schwab Co. and E*Trade Financial Corp.