The Sultan of Brunei, Hollywood's newest mogul, may rival the New York Stock Exchange as a source of rumors and panic.
Since the announcement Oct. 6 that he acquired the historic Beverly Hills Hotel for a reported $185 million, the shadowy sultan--worth an estimated $25 billion before this week's meltdown on Wall Street--has set off a volcano of speculation, centering around whether he would convert the pink hotel into his own private palace on Sunset Boulevard. According to workers in the hotel, there was short-lived concern that the refuge of the rich and famous, built in 1912, would be shut down for extensive renovation, the first major face-lift since the early 1960s.
But since these apocalyptic scenarios made the rounds, retailers in the hotel say they have been assured that the end of their world is not coming. At most, they have been told a wing of the 260-room hotel and its famed bungalows might be shut down for remodeling, they say.
Meanwhile, the sultan, who lives in a $400-million palace in his oil-rich country on the island of Borneo, has been mastering the details of how the Hollywood pecking order works. A day or two after he sealed the deal for the hotel, the 41-year-old potentate reportedly staked his claim to another piece of movieland turf, tycoon Marvin Davis' favorite table at Nicky Blair's, the West Hollywood restaurant frequented by the rich and famous. Appropriately, Davis is the man who sold him the hotel.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday October 27, 1987 Home Edition View Part 5 Page 6 Column 6 View Desk 2 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
A story in Friday's View about possible renovations of the Beverly Hills Hotel resulting from the Sultan of Brunei's purchase of it reported that tycoon Marvin Davis has a favorite table at Nicky Blair's restaurant. Davis says he has visited the restaurant only once.
Officially, however, the sultan and his representatives aren't talking about his comings and goings, or about his plan for the hotel. Thursday morning, hotel public relations man Lee Solters said "nothing can be mentioned specifically" about hotel renovation. Solters said the change of ownership is too recent for a decision by new management on remodeling or restoration. He added that an announcement about such plans should be made "very soon." At the time the sale was announced, a terse release reported that the new owner intended to "pursue existing plans for major improvements and refurbishing" of the hotel. For the past couple of years, the hotel has been undergoing a piecemeal renovation that includes some of the major banquet rooms as well as guest rooms and the grounds.
On Thursday also, hotel spokeswoman Sheila O'Brien said that as far as she knew the sultan has never been anywhere near his new property. "Not to my knowledge," she said. "It isn't recorded anywhere that he's been in the hotel."
Dennis Rinehart, the maitre d' at Nicky Blair's, would dispute that statement. On the night of Sept. 29, someone at the Beverly Hills Hotel called the restaurant and reserved a table for "our new owner," Rinehart said.
When the sultan arrived with a companion in the hotel's limousine, Rinehart recalled, "I gave him Marvin Davis' table," adding that the sultan appreciated the gesture and told him, "This is my table now."
The low-profile sultan, best known in this country for donating $10 million to the Nicaraguan contras in the Iran-contra affair that embroiled the Reagan Administration, went unrecognized by the sparse Tuesday night crowd, including by a photographer who specializes in snapping celebrities, restaurant workers said.
Remembering the size of the sultan's tip, Rinehart said he isn't likely to forget where the sultan likes to sit. "It's not the most (money) I've gotten for a table for two but it was darned close," he said.