Monday 29, October 2018 by Bloomberg

Churchill's Moroccan oasis on sale in privatisation push


Morocco is counting on Alfred Hitchcock and Winston Churchill to help it raise money.

The government plans next year to sell a 51-per cent stake in La Mamounia Hotel, a former Marrakesh palace-turned-five-star hotel that has, for decades, welcomed leaders such as Charles de Gaulle, as well as the Hollywood elite, according to two people familiar with the plan. They declined to be identified because the sale has yet to be formally approved by the cash-strapped Kingdom’s cabinet.

The Government is expected to fix a minimum price and invite bids sometime in 2019, one of the sources said. The majority stake is currently held by the state railways monopoly, while minority shareholders include the state-controlled investment management fund, Caisse de Depot et de Gestion (CDG), and Marrakesh’s city council.

La Mamounia, which was listed in February 2018 as one of the “Seven Most Historically Significant Hotels in the World” by interior design magazine Architectural Digest, has a storied past. The Art Deco palace was a favourite of Churchill’s, who, the magazine said, once described it to Franklin Roosevelt as “one of the most beautiful places in the world.”

As well as welcoming scores of A-list celebrities such as Marlene Dietrich, Ray Charles, Paul McCartney and Elton John, the 95-year-old palace that was a wedding gift to Prince Al Mamoun from his father, served as a backdrop for films including Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much” and Oliver Stone’s “Alexander.”

Khadija Borara, a spokeswoman for the railway company, known by its French acronym ONCF, declined to comment. Najat Saher, an official with the finance and economy ministry’s privatization department, did not return calls seeking comment.

The hotel, once the flagship of Morocco’s luxury hospitality industry, has seen its star dim slightly in recent years—a victim of the push to market scenic Marrakesh, with its growing links to European airports, as a year-round destination to a broader range of tourists.

"If the walls could talk, they would surely have some stories to tell," La Mamounia’s brochure reads.

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