Dorchester CEO on Beverly Hills Hotel Boycott: ‘Why Try and Kill Your Local Business?’

Beverly Hills Hotel protest Sultan of
David McNew/Getty Images

The CEO of the Dorchester Collection, parent company of the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air, warned that the simmering boycott of the properties was misdirected and may end up hurting jobs and local business.

In an interview, the hotel chain’s CEO, Christopher Cowdray, said protesters “have the right to demonstrate, but please direct the demonstration to the formal channels. Lobby Washington. Why try and kill your local business? Your local business has absolutely nothing to do with this.”

Hours earlier, Jay Leno and other entertainment and political figures appeared at a rally across the street from the 101-year-old hotel, calling for a boycott because of the hotel’s backing by the Sultan of Brunei, who is implementing a series of harsh new Islamic laws in his country that have drawn condemnation from LGBT, women’s and human rights organizations.

Cowdray said that nine events have been cancelled at the Beverly Hills Hotel since calls for a boycott started, and the impact on the Hotel Bel-Air has so far been “nothing notable.” The Beverly Hills Hotel hosts about 550 events a year, a spokeswoman said.

He took issue with the demonstrators’ focus on the Dorchester Collection, which is based in Great Britain and has about 4,000 employees, and one of its signature properties. He said that what they are protesting is an international issue.

“My response is, ‘You are singling out the Beverly Hills Hotel, but have you considered your actions?'” he said. “And are you going to single out every other company that has an association with a country with laws that you don’t agree with?”

He noted that other hotels in Los Angeles are owned by Saudi Arabia, which has a set of harsh laws restricting women’s and LGBT rights, while trade between the U.S. and the kingdom is at about $60 billion a year. He also noted that consumer goods, like clothing and car parts, are sometimes manufactured in countries with poor working conditions.

“We are in a very global world today, and therefore my view to everyone is you need to consider your actions correctly before making statements,” he said.

The Dorchester Collection, he said, is not owned by the sultan himself but the Brunei Investment Agency, the sovereign wealth fund that is the investment arm of the country’s ministry of finance. The sultan of Brunei, he said, “is not my boss,” and Cowdray reports to the investment agency’s board of directors.

Asked whether the collection would issue a statement condemning the new and planned laws in the country, Cowdray said: “No. Not at all.” Instead, he cited the company’s code of conduct, endorsed by the owners, that is “absolutely about equality and respect for everyone.”

He said that the boycott risked having the effect of hurting the region’s economy as well as the employees. The collection’s two Los Angeles properties employ about 1,000 people, he said, and about $19 million is reinvested in the local economy each year.

Beverly Hills Mayor Lili Bosse has proposed a resolution calling for Brunei to divest its stake in the hotel.

“Beverly Hills as a city, Los Angeles as a city, rely significantly on foreign travel from people in the Middle East and Asia and countries that abide by Islamic rules,” he said. “By singling out the Beverly Hills Hotel, she is also singling out Beverly Hills, and that could be very damaging to business, which doesn’t only affect the hotels. It affects all the other services.”

He said that his message to his employees is that “even if business were to get very bad, we would not lay off anyone. We are here to protect their positions.” He also noted that, even as local groups pull out of the hotel, they “have a very international business, so we are not totally reliant on the trade we get from Beverly Hills.”

He said that he learned of the boycott about a week ago and flew to Los Angeles last week. The boycott has been tough on the employees, he said. “When some one you have been serving for 40 years then boycotts, you have got to take that personally,” he said.

“When you have a boycott of the hotel, yes it hurts the business, but it is getting to the heart of what we are about, and that is our employees, and it is hurting them.”

Cowdray was particularly critical of Richard Branson’s announcement that his Virgin companies would boycott the hotels, saying he found it “very unprofessional from a person of his stature.”

“I don’t know why he chose to make that statement, particularly considering he has an airline that flies to the Middle East. He has hotels in Morocco. He flies to Dubai. He flies to Nigeria.”

 

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  1. chris says:

    If people did the research they would see that none of the money that is made at this hotel leaves the U.S.
    Also, when people boycott here and chose to stay at a hotel named the Four Seasons, they are hypocritical. The owner of the Four Seasons chain is a Riyadhi, Saudi Arabia based holding company. Last I checked, Saudi Arabia is 100% Sharia.

  2. Mitchell Kade says:

    Is he serious? Lobby Washington? Washington doesn’t own the hotel.

  3. Zaki Mursidi says:

    Those celebs who join this boycott just want to have a cheap publicity for themselves…if they really against this issue they themselves should had done it long ago! For start…Richard Branson u may close ur airline business in the middle east please….

    • Mitchell Kade says:

      That’s a pretty ignorant comment since the sultan had just recently announced his Sharia law and that’s why the protests started.

  4. Zacx says:

    I dunt think you the one who stay in this luxury hotels.You are jobless now and pretending rich man….sad :((… go keep looking a job will u….collect garabge will be good for u :))))

  5. Ali Babba says:

    Dorchestor chain CEO is proud to announce the opening of the Sultan’s latest resort – Hotel Auschwitz.

    Thanks for coming out Chowdry. Now go find yourself a new job cause we are not buying any more of your companies owner’s hate crimes.

  6. Nikki says:

    If the boycott was not working, the Dorchestor chain CEO wouldn’t be all over the press screaming for it to end.

    Keep it up, folks.

    • Manasaja says:

      The boycott may be working to hurt the hotel and the U.S. people working in it, but not the oil rich country of Brunei.

  7. jp hall says:

    this will not hurt business at all, there are other hotels that are very nice that are just as good as these two hotels. Quite frankly, all hotels owned by this dirt bag company should be boycotted. I am so tired of Islamic countries coming here, taking our profits and then using it to oppress their people with a ridiculous interpretation of the quran, I wish all the rag heads would get out of our free thinking country and to their oppressive country where they can be caned in public for chewing gum. Funny, the muslims are not running for the border once they get here,

  8. James of the Clan McLaren. says:

    Driving them out of business means creating an opening for locally owned businesses to pick up the slack, it reduces the influence of middle eastern governments and buyers, and has the added benefit of sending less money to a government that will use it to murder GLBT citizens.

    An all around win/win in my book.

    • patrick albright says:

      you should check your geography before making dumb comment…Brunei is not in the middle east, and as for middle east, maybe our government should stop invading and meddling with their domestic politics….

  9. Conserve says:

    Think you missed the importance of the article. Gotta love these people, I swear if they see a man on fire running down their street screaming, they would walk back in their house and call the cops for a noise violation.

  10. Of course the CEO would say that. But it’s not exactly a small local business. Maybe someone local should take it over instead of filling the Sultan’s pocket.

  11. Film Producer says:

    Much better to hurt jobs and local businesses than have a single gay man or “adulterer” stoned to death in Brunei with the introduction of this barbaric and mediaeval law. And the Dorchester Collection is owned by the ministry of Finance, not the Sultan directly? I don’t understand the distinction – so the country owns the Dorchester Collection – that makes this boycott even better!! Until this is resolved, I will not step into any of these hotels or business owned or managed by Brunei Investment Agency or the Sultan directly.

  12. Franck Verhaeghe says:

    He also said he has NO OPINION on the ruling in Brunai against women and gay people??????

    • David says:

      Brunei is a southeast Asian country, they aren’t Arabs. And it has nothing to do with Obama, unless of course you blame him for the sun not coming out today.

  13. Bill says:

    Go ahead, boycott.

    The Brunei group holds the hotel for its real estate value, not for its value as an ongoing concern.

    If the boycott hurts business, they close the hotel and subdivide the property, job done.

  14. cminca says:

    He’s whistling past the graveyard.

    People stay at the Beverly HIlls Hotel because of the connection to the movie industry. Without the celebrity cache, the tourist industry dries up.

    And, as a 25+ year veteran of the hotel industry I can assure you that they will lay off employees if the business dries up.

  15. David says:

    As to the question of ‘why try and kill your local business’ the answer is because its owner has legalized the killing of gays just for being gay. And not even by painless lethal injection but by throwing rocks at their heads until they eventually die. Think about that one. I’ve been having business lunches at the Polo Lounge for over 20 years and there’s a shortage of other good places to go (Chateau is for the younger set, Beverly Hilton is for tourists) but I’ll be damned if I set foot in there again.

  16. It is the Sultan who is trying to “kill” local business even as he wants to kill innocent human beings. What is more important to the world, the respect of human freedom & equal rights for everyone, or The Beverly Hills Hotel? There is no contest. We have to be very cautious that the hideous government sanctioned suppression of human rights, of religious persecution, is not allowed to seep into the lives of civilized people. And we must never believe that it can’t happen here.

    • Charles says:

      Woody – you are completely, and I mean completely, missing his point. His point is why single out one hotel? Prince Walid bin Talal of Saudi Arabi has a $300m investment in Twitter. Saudi Arabi has the same horrible laws. So everyone should boycott Twitter right? Why the double standard? The irony is Ellen doesn’t even realize she used a platform partially owned by a guy from a country who has the same laws she so condemmed. The point is you can’t cherry pick – either boycott every company associated with these countries or back off. Singling out just shows not only a lack of education but gross hypocrisy.

      • ThomT says:

        Actually you can “cherry pick”. While it is impossible to boycott every company associated with these countries you can “cherry pick” the biggest and/or most visible in order to get the most attention. Once the ball is rolling and others (smaller and less visible) see the damage a boycott can do they may, without being the target of a boycott themselves, work to resolve the obvious areas of concern while avoiding damage to their own brand. While I’m not a fan of boycotting (very rarely are they successful) I don’t see this one as causing any long term damage to the hotel involved – the Beverly Hills Hotel has changed ownership previously and I see that as the probable outcome of this should the boycott begin to have a negative effect on the bottom line.

  17. MichaelZ says:

    Cowdray’s tone deaf lecture would be laughable if it wasn’t so ridiculous. Global companies should respect basic human rights; not the other way around. His “we’re not the only ones who do it” defense is pathetic and shameful.

    • Charles says:

      Ok then cherry pick twitter – it’s worth 10,000 times more than the Beverly Hills hotel and 10,000 times more high profile.

    • Bill says:

      As long as you recognize the hypocrisy inherent in boycotting this one hotel and not other businesses owned by Brunei, Saudi Arabia or, for that matter, Russia.

      Twitter can afford to buy back their Saudi-owned shares, why not demand that?

      You might say Twitter honors their LGBT employees; so does the Dorchester Collection.

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