Kings Perth Hotel
The Armstrong Jones Property Fund sells the Kings Hotel in Perth's CBD for $18 million. The original asking price of $23 million is dropped, due to the settlement valuation. Comprising of the 119-room hotel over 11 floors, the deal also includes a public car park lease and an eight-storey office block in the adjoining building, which is largely leased out to the West Australian government. The hotel is currently leased out to Ambassador Management (who were registered as a company in 1981 until 1992) (Financial Review).
The hotel is back on the market and expected to fetch $70 million. The site now needs a major refurbishment and hotelier Mirjam Norvilas decides to sell up. The hotel market is showing signs of recovering, after tourism was hit hard in wake of major terrorist attacks, as well as widespread fears of fatal diseases including SARS and bird flu.
High demand for accommodation has resulted in a shortage of rooms but no major hotels are being developed, due to soaring construction costs. Major tenants in the office block now include World English, Ready To Go Travel, Western Library Group Services, with Multiplex also renting a small office in the complex.
Car bays being an issue in the city and touted as scare at times, has seen rates for parking in A-grade buildings jumping to almost as much as office rents, with an average of $525 per bay a month! (The West Australian, 21 February 2007, p58).
The sale of the Kings Hotel is sidelined, with the Norvilas family opting to commit to a major refurbishment themselves. Although there had been a strong response from potential buyers, no offers met the expectations of the owners. The 3.5-star hotel will be upgraded to a four-star rating (The West Australian, 23 May 2007, p.58).
The hotel is sold by Knight Frank for approximately $60 million. Hotelier Mirjam Norvilas sells up to retire from the property world (The West Australian). Sadly, her retirement will be short-lived. Aged 86, Mirjam passes away a few months later in November (MCB).
Other hotels and properties owned by the prominent family (or ones they had previously been involved in), includes the Inn Town on Pier Street, Oceanic Hotel in Mosman Park and the Highway Hotel in Claremont (also known as the Coronado).
The hotel now has 117 rooms and suites, two penthouses, numerous function rooms including a ballroom that can host 450 people, two bars, a restaurant with alfresco dining and a rooftop pool. The carpark, which is still part of the package, includes 374 licensed car bays which is leased out to Wilson Parking to serve the public, as well as hotel guests. The office block with almost 5,000sqm is now leased out to a variety of tenants, including lawyers and settlement agents (The West Australian).
The Murder of Chris Norvilas
Some people may remember the murder of Mirjam's son Chris, in November 1994. The 38-year-old, who was the General Manager of the hotel, had returned to his penthouse sometime after 8pm on Tuesday 8th November, when he'd invited a visitor into his apartment. After reportedly sharing a wine and beer with Mr Norvilas, the guest plunged a knife into his sternum before cutting his throat twice. The next afternoon, his brother Chris and a hotel employee found his body, after becoming concerned he hadn't been seen all day (The West Australian, 11 November 1994, p3).
Hours before his murder, Chris had met up with Barney from Perth rock band Rawkus, to discuss problems they were having in obtaining visas to the US, with criminal conviction sheets of band members purportedly measuring some 10 feet long! Chris had recently become a financial backer, manager and friend of the band (Spirit of Metal).
Kurt Russel Steel was later sentenced to life in 1995 for his murder, with parole after 17 years.
A group associated with Indonesian investors, purchase the Kings Hotel for $39 million. The attraction for the buyers was the "diversified investment portfolio with one purchase," as well as a good "scope to change the various uses of the complex and maximise the benefits of the current demand for hotel and car park space" (The West Australian). Indonesian investor and buyer, Jacky Mulani, who is based in Applecross, also owns the Araluen Golf Resort in Roleystone (The West Australian).
Rydges announces a signed management agreement to operate the Kings Hotel Perth, rebranding it to Rydges Perth after an extensive refurbishment. Together with the hotel's owner, Nobel Group, they release a media statement detailing the significant refurbishment of the property that is currently taking place and would continue for the next few months (Hotel Management). This would see the number of hotel rooms increasing to 174 with three levels of commercial office space converted into 57 new rooms and the existing rooms all undergoing a full refurbishment, including new bathrooms (Tourism of Cambodia).
All public spaces, particularly the restaurant, bar and conference facilities will also undergo refurbishment, with an expected completion date in mid-2016. It will bolster the hotel rating up a star to four-stars. The estimated cost for the renovations is $7.5 million with Christou Design Group Pty Ltd being contracted as the developer.
The hotel is due to close for approximately a year from around August.
Now it's 2022. The hotel remains somewhat abandoned. MCS Security provides an onsite security guard for 12 hours every night and during the day on the weekend. A mobile patrol security officer attends regularly, as well as for required responses, during the weekdays.
For a while, (Vietnamese?) contractors did work on the Kings Hotel, for what appears to largely have been for plastering and painting. It's hard to know how long this continued for and whether or not it is continuing to date.
An online search of Noble Group, who were said to be Singapore-based (according to the security guard I spoke with), shows (if it is the same company in question), that they were accused of accounting fraud by Iceberg Research, which saw their credit rating downgraded to junk. As a result, they recorded net losses of $1.7 billion in 2015 and the remaining 49% of their agricultural business was also sold.
CEO Yusuf Alireza, who is now the CEO and co-founder of Dubai company ARP Global Capital, was terminated from Noble Group in May 2016 (Bloomberg). A year later, he sued its founder Richard Elman, for $58 million (AUD) compensation, alleging contract breaches. In 2019, the amount in question becomes $80 million (AUD) as a result of shares he is owed (The Straits Times). I am unable to find any updates since.
As of December 2021, Noble Group are undergoing their second restructure in three years which will see $500 million debt cut from $1.5 billion owed (Bloomberg). Another news article states they are now Hong-Kong based and are undergoing a winding up process in Bermuda, in an attempt to rescue themselves by selling billions of dollars of assets, taking hefty write-downs, as well as cutting hundreds of jobs over the past few years. After being de-listed from the Singapore Exchange in 2018, they rebranded themselves as Noble Group Holdings as part of the debt-for-equity restructuring process (The Straits Times).
In 2003, I had a trial experience as a waitress in the lower floor bar of the Kings Hotel. I really didn’t like it and didn’t take up the job. I met Mirjam on my first night and she was a lovely elderly lady, although she had a sense of hardness about her. I was quickly given the impression that if you double-crossed her, she’d resembled a mobster. I imagined no one would dare to push her around and I quickly respected her for that. Perhaps it was a tough-business mentality trait.
It didn’t take long to get the impression that the older son was lazy, his mother’s pet and was expecting to inherit the hotel. He sat around drinking with the patrons all night, whilst his younger brother worked all night without barely taking a break and did everything he could to please his mother. I felt that she didn’t bother to acknowledge this, let alone his presence. Perhaps I was also informed of this by one of the other staff members, I can’t recall.
01 - September 2020