Billionaires: Zara founder buys luxury New York apartment building for $500m

In our fortnightly roundup of the world's super wealthy, the Benetton family agrees to sell their controlling stake in Autogrill and Hong Kong's high court tells property tycoon Pan Sutong to go bankrupt

Zara founder Amancio Ortega has paid $500 million for the 19 Dutch apartment building in New York City. EPA
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Amancio Ortega

Amancio Ortega, the billionaire founder of the Zara clothing chain, has agreed to buy New York’s 19 Dutch apartment building.

Mr Ortega’s holding company Pontegadea has reached an accord to acquire the 64-floor luxury apartment complex for about $500 million, according to details published by trade publication The Real Deal and confirmed by a representative for Mr Ortega. The building was sold by Carmel Partners.

Pontegadea channels the dividends Mr Ortega, 86, receives from his 59 per cent stake in fast-fashion giant Inditex to a portfolio focused on premium commercial and residential property in cities from Seattle and Toronto to London and Barcelona. Inditex owns several brands, including Zara.

Pontegadea this year bought an office building in Glasgow for about £200m ($237m), as well as the Royal Bank Plaza in Toronto for C$1.2 billion ($916m).

The company bought the iconic, gold-clad tower in Canada’s financial capital from Oxford Properties, the property arm of Ontario’s pension fund for municipal workers, and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

While Ortega’s investments mostly focus on property, he’s also been diversifying in recent years into infrastructure.

Pontegadea owns a stake in an undersea telecoms cable company with Telefonica and in power and gas transmission networks in Spain and Portugal.

Mr Ortega’s company has also invested in a renewable energy project with Repsol and last year bought a stake in Portuguese power and gas grid operator Redes Energeticas Nacionais. He also owns stakes in Enagas and Spanish grid operator Red Electrica Corporacion.

Mr Ortega is Spain’s wealthiest person and the 23rd-richest person in the world with a $48.5bn fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. His wealth has taken a $19bn hit this year after Inditex’s share price tumbled 18 per cent.

His daughter, Marta Ortega, took over as chairwoman of the retail empire this year, after her predecessor Pablo Isla left the role.

Alessandro Benetton, chairman of Benetton Group SpA, speaks during a television interview at the company's store on Brompton Road in London, U.K., on Tuesday, Sept 18, 2012. Benetton Group SpA, the family-owned Italian fashion company, will replace controversial posters showing world leaders kissing with an advertising campaign that highlights rising levels of youth unemployment. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Alessandro Benetton

Alessandro Benetton

The billionaire Benetton family agreed to sell their controlling stake in motorway restaurant operator Autogrill to duty-free company Dufry, creating a $6bn player in the travel retail market and accelerating the overhaul of the Italian industrial clan’s holdings.

As part of the deal, the Benettons will sell their majority stake in Autogrill to become the biggest single investor in Dufry with a stake of as much as 25 per cent. Dufry will then bid for rest of the Italian company.

The combination with Dufry is the second major deal in recent months for the Benettons, after they agreed with Blackstone in April to take motorway operator Atlantia private, valuing the business at €19bn ($19.2bn).

The pace of transformation has quickened under Alessandro Benetton, the son of company founder Luciano Benetton, who took the reins at the €11bn holding Edizione Holding this year.

The shake-up at Edizione began after the deadly 2018 bridge collapse in Genoa, northern Italy, on a section of road managed by the family’s Autostrade per l’Italia.

The Benettons eventually sold Autostrade to end a standoff with the government over the disaster.

Autogrill investors will receive either a new Dufry share or €6.33 in cash for each share in the Italian company. The cash offer would value Autogrill at about €2.44bn.

“This is not a transaction done at current market prices,” said Dufry chief executive Xavier Rossinyol, who will lead the combined group.

“The exchange ratio has been calculated in a way to reflect the value of the two companies, taking into consideration a longer point of time.”

The combined group will have 5,500 outlets at about 1,200 airports and other locations, a statement said. The deal will allow Dufry to build its presence in the US, while adding to other locations in Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.

Dufry and the Benettons — who built a business empire with the namesake clothing brand in the 1960s — have been talking about a potential tie-up for months, after a series of informal approaches in the past few years.

The travel retail group emerging from a deal between Dufry and the Benettons had a combined market value of more than $6bn when preliminary talks were first reported in April.

Alessandro Benetton will be named honorary chairman of Dufry. The family will also name two of its executives as deputy chairmen. Autogrill chief executive Gianmario Tondato will be named head of North America operations.

Autogrill and Dufry historically have led in global concessions catering and travel retail, respectively, and overlap mainly in Europe and North America, so they could garner operational gains in a tie-up, including favourable rents, purchasing and logistics.

The two have some product alignment, especially in the US, with Autogrill having acquired convenience retail brands in the past six years, while Dufry is expanding in food service.

A Hong Kong court has ordered property tycoon Pan Sutong to declare bankruptcy. Getty

Pan Sutong

Distressed Hong Kong property tycoon Pan Sutong was told by the city’s high court to go bankrupt, marking another blow to the former billionaire.

The court ordered Mr Pan to unwind his holding company Silver Starlight, after failing to pay creditors including China Citic Bank HK$8bn ($1bn) that was due in 2019, according to a recent court filing.

A representative for Mr Pan said he is appealing the order.

Once among Asia’s wealthiest people, Mr Pan fell from grace after shares of his overleveraged Goldin Financial Holdings plunged amid a property collapse, erasing most of his $27bn fortune.

Last month, he resigned as chairman and executive director of Goldin Financial after the sale of the company’s flagship skyscraper collapsed.

Two more units related to Citic Bank joined the Chinese lender in petitioning against Mr Pan and Silver Starlight. A division of Bank of China also presented a bankruptcy petition against Mr Pan in May, and the case will be heard on August 2.

Pan and Goldin Financial amassed around HK$38bn ($4.84bn) of debt between May 2017 and September 2020 for four Hong Kong properties, according to stock exchange filings and data compiled by Bloomberg.

Crypto exchange FTX, co-founded by billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, is in talks to raise fresh funding. Bloomberg

Sam Bankman-Fried

Cryptocurrency exchange FTX, cofounded by billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, is in talks to raise fresh funding after carrying out a shopping spree during the recent digital-assets market rout.

FTX and its American entity FTX US are both fund-raising, according to people familiar with the matter who aren’t authorised to discuss continuing negotiations.

FTX is targeting a round at essentially the same valuation as its January fund-raising, the people said.

In January, FTX announced it raised $400m at $32bn valuation, while FTX US raised a separate $400m at an $8bn valuation.

A representative for FTX declined to comment when asked about the talks.

Mr Bankman-Fried has positioned himself as a lender of last resort in the cryptocurrency industry that has been roiled by a collapse in prices, prompting a number of companies to seek rescue.

In all, he committed about $1bn during the digital-asset rout that’s wiped out $2 trillion in market value in only eight months.

He propped up cryptocurrency lending platform BlockFi and tried to save Voyager Digital with a large loan. He has said he backstopped a couple of companies where his involvement hasn’t been made public.

Updated: July 25, 2022, 5:00 AM