Boycott Cripples Biz at Beverly Hills Hotel

Jay Leno attends a protest at
David McNew/Getty Images

More than six weeks after a wave of Hollywood groups and showbiz figures launched a boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air, business at the fabled Hollywood-centric properties is off dramatically.

The Beverly Hills Hotel even acknowledges it has seen a “significant loss of revenue” after the boycott gained traction on May 5, when the Motion Picture and Television Fund pulled its annual pre-Oscar Night Before Party from the venue, and Jay Leno, LGBT leaders and women’s rights organizations staged a rally across the street.

The protest is over plans by the hotels’ owner, the sultan of Brunei, to impose Sharia law in his country, with penalties like stoning those in gay relationships, as well as those accused of adultery or extramarital affairs. Brunei’s investment agency controls the Dorchester Collection, parent company of the two hotels.

Beverly Hills Hotel’s Polo Lounge, ordinarily packed with Hollywood types, was noticeably more sparse over the past week and weekend. One of the only recognizable faces dining there was Eric Close, a co-star on ABC’s “Nashville.” The actor’s publicist, Jill Fritzo, said, “Eric had been traveling, and had no idea about the situation. If he did, he would never have gone.”

Still, Variety has learned that a handful of celebs and other industry players are visiting both iconic hotels, according to workers who are under strict orders not to speak publicly about such sightings. “Some of the regulars are still coming,” confided one inside source.

Though names of specific visitors were provided to this publication, reps for those individuals either denied their clients were continuing to patronize the hotels or did not return phone calls seeking comment.

As previously reported, actors Russell Crowe and Rose McGowan, in support of the hotel’s workers, declared the well-publicized boycott misguided. McGowan even hosted a cocktail reception at the Beverly Hills Hotel last month at the same time she spoke out against the sultan’s policies.

But while these and other entertainment insiders have opted to ignore the protest, there is an ongoing push by its staunchest supporters to continue voicing their objections. The Human Rights Campaign, for instance, has highlighted recent support for the boycott from such figures as Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

Variety has also learned that Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks Animation CEO, and Casey Wasserman, chief exec of Wasserman Media Group, have approached management of the Dorchester Collection to explore potential resolutions to the controversy, and are hoping to engage in a meaningful conversation with the company’s leaders. Reps for Katzenberg and Wasserman, who serve on the MPTF’s board of directors, declined comment.

The boycott started April 17, when the LGBT group the Gill Action Fund announced it was pulling out of a planned conference at the hotel in protest of the sultan’s policies. A parade of other groups — including the Beverly Hills Bar Assn. and the Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors — announced they, too, would move events to other locations.

Further, ICM Partners, UTA and WME Entertainment said that their employees would boycott the hotel, and studio chiefs privately said they would not patronize the property.

Dorchester Collection CEO Christopher Cowdray has attempted to counter the boycott with a media blitz and social media campaign, contending it ultimately would hurt the hotel’s employees. The hotel has said it has no plans to lay off any of its 650 employees, and is maintaining their wages and lost tips.

Alexandra Cheney and Justin Kroll contributed to this story.

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  1. Rick says:

    The boycott is more than the hotel, it’s a boycott of the Holdings Company.
    It is also more than just Hollywood, Richard Branson the owner of Virgin Group is boycotting all Dorchester Holdings as well.

    To the people who wonder why these people aren’t boycotting the UAE, it’s because this is not about Sharia Law, rather it’s about the punishments of stoning and decapitations, which the UAE does not do.

    And to the person who says it’s asinine (implying it won’t work) maybe you should consult the former Tunisian government. People scoffed when Mohamed Bouazizi self immolated in Dec of 2010. Within a month Zine El Abidine Ben Ali lost his 19 year hold on power. Never know what can happen unless you try

    And as a final point, boycotts are one of the truest forms of capitalism; deciding how I will spend my money and why, getting others to join me, is both democratic and capitalistic

  2. Matt says:

    Asinine boycott. Simply asinine.

  3. chris dunn says:

    Sharon Osbourne is one of the big proponents of the boycott. Yet she has been in Abu Dhabi with her husband collecting a paycheck for concert tour. When are you going to call her out for hypocracy .Disney in Abu Dhabi filming Star Wars. Sharia Law for 1300 years. Not a word from Hollywood.. It makes me sick.

  4. Andrew says:

    As a gay man I have to say I do not support the boycott at all. Why select one of the most gay-friendly businesses and make the employees, many of whom are gay and others our friends, suffer? If this is about Sharia Law, the United Arab Emerates, Saudi Arabia, Brunei, as well as many other countries with dubious human rights records, are heavily invested in the West, in hotels and movies, in Apple and Twitter, in Citigroup, Time Warner and Valentino to name a very few. In fact, Qatar Investment Authority (the sovereign wealth fund of the Sharia nation of Qatar) is the lead investor of Miramax. But most of these countries’ money doesn’t come from any of these investments, large as they may be. It comes from oil. It comes from the oil we all use. Boycott Shell oil, not a gay-friendly hotel.

  5. Pierre Edelman says:

    From Pierre Edelman, Paris: Seen from 8000 miles away, this boycott looks and sounds ridiculous. There is a long list of properties in the U.S. controlled or fully owned by Emirs & Sheiks who either abide or agree with the so-called Sharia laws. To be fair, why not publish that list, in a Snowden-like move and stop picking on one of the last standing Hollywood landmark of a gone era, one of the most iconic Hotel on the Planet. It reminds me a time when jewish communities were boycotting Mercedes-Benz…

  6. Angeleno says:

    It becomes a little more complicated to decide what to do about the boycott when even not all LGBT groups agree. For instance, Stonewall has stated they do not support the boycott.

  7. Lincoln says:

    The employees are the only ones that lose. The whole things ridiculous. Does Jay Leno really have nothing better to do?…oh wait he doesn’t.

  8. Dick Delson says:

    I’m straight and love women. Some of my best friends are gay. So what?

  9. Dick Delson says:

    The Sultan is a schmuck

  10. citizentm says:

    Sure – keep the stonings going to save some jobs. Good thinking, Russel.

    • Jay says:

      Was anyone stoned at the hotel? Didn’t think so.

    • Bill says:

      Do you think the Sultan actually cares whether these piddly little properties in one of his holdings are profitable?

      The employees will ultimately be hurt more than the Sultan when he decides to stop losing money and closes and/or bulldozes the place.

      Boycott or not, it’s up to you, but don’t pretend the Sultan is wringing his hands about the publicity and financial losses.

      • Bill says:

        Fortune telling is not involved; rather the Sultan paid $110M for the hotel but his net worth is over $5B.

        That’s around 2.2%.

        Calculate for yourself the degree to which you would be concerned about the profitibility of an investment valued at only 2.2% of your personal net worth, especially when most of that net value is the value of the land it sits upon.

      • Smooth says:

        Reading minds again I see. Maybe you can get a job as the sultan’s fortune teller.

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