Business Scene

Jerusalem's Palace Hotel will be renovated and managed under the Waldorf Astoria brand.

Jeru Palace hotel 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Jeru Palace hotel 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
After a long hiatus, the Hilton hotel chain is returning to Jerusalem, though not exactly with the familiar name. Hilton will manage the old-new Palace Hotel, currently under reconstruction. Scheduled to open towards the end of 2010, it will bear Hilton's luxury Waldorf Astoria Collection brand, which currently graces only five hotels in the world, four of them in the US and one in Saudi Arabia. The Rome Cavalieri Hilton is also destined to become part of the Waldorf Astoria Collection chain of elite hotels. The Palace, a luxury hotel from the pre-state era, located on what is now the capital's Agron Street, served for many years as the main building of the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry. Its magnificent lobby with its majestic staircase had been maintained by the ministry, but all the guest rooms had been converted into ugly cubby-hole offices. Even before the ministry moved to its present location, there was talk of restoring the Palace to its former grandeur. The plan to restore it as a hotel, is not surprising as it sits in the heart of one of Jerusalem's hotel belts, where within a five to ten minute walking radius there are nine existing hotels. The original Jerusalem Hilton at the entrance to the city is now the Crowne Plaza. When it was first built, well over two decades ago, it was the only hotel in the immediate area. But as was common with Hilton hotels at the time, it paved the way for surrounding hotel development, and today is within easy walking distance of some half dozen additional hotels. After the initial disappearance of the Hilton from Jerusalem, it was brought back by real estate developer Alfred Akirov, who chose to have the Hilton manage his David Citadel Hotel, one of the city's major prestige establishments. But after a few months, Akirov dispensed with the Hilton's services because he didn't like the way that the hotel was being managed. This led to lengthy legal procedures which did not succeed in bringing the Hilton back to the David Citadel. However the Hilton is now back in Jerusalem, and if it has returned under the Waldorf Astoria Collection brand, it should not be too long before it signs a deal with another hotel developer to operate in Jerusalem under the Hilton brand as it does in Tel Aviv and Eilat where it manages the Queen of Sheba. THERE HAS been an ongoing buzz in the Hebrew media about Nochi Dankner's efforts to acquire a significant share in the stock of cable television provider HOT Telecommunications. In addition to negotiating with Bank Leumi for its 15 percent stock in the company, Dankner is also reportedly negotiating with Eliezer Fishman and Yitzhak Tshuva to acquire their shares in HOT. IDB Holding Corporation, the investment group headed by Dankner, has reportedly made a NIS 500 million offer to Leumi for the HOT shares. If Dankner succeeds in his negotiations with Leumi and other shareholders in HOT, he will merge the cable company with Cellcom-Netvision-013 Barak, which is controlled by IDB, making it the country's second largest communications network after Bezeq, and posing a serious threat to what was once an Israeli monopoly. How this will affect consumers remains to be seen. Both companies are increasingly replacing staff who might instantly answer questions, with recordings that instruct callers to press telephone digits. In general this is a frustrating experience for consumers anxious to repair a fault in a communications system or trying to find out something about a particular service that either company may give. Even more frustrating than being shunted from digit to digit is being forced to listen to recorded sales pitches before getting through to the next instruction as to what number to press. This method of providing services is a costly operation, especially to consumers calling from cell phones and paying by the minute, while the recordings go on and on and on. Worse still, sometimes at the end of this long endurance test of patience, there is no human being at the end of the tunnel, and the recorded message simply goes back to the beginning and starts all over again. If Dankner really wants to compete with Bezeq, he will restore some of the human contact that has been removed from telephone answering services, so that callers can be instantly transferred to someone who can help them. HAIFA BUSINESSMAN Gad Zeevi, whose checkered career has yielded good fodder for the economic and sports pages of Israel's print media is embarking on a new enterprise. Mirage, a company owned by Zeevi, has concluded a deal to pay NIS 36m. for half of the Haifa land rights owned by Ashdar, for the purpose of building three residential towers in the Danya neighborhood. The 24-story project, a joint venture with Ashdar, will comprise 330 luxury residential units, plus a 700 square meter commercial center. Total investment in the project has been estimated at NIS 320m., with an anticipated income of NIS 380m. Construction is due to begin in early 2009. The developers expect that at least 10% of the apartments will be sold to overseas buyers who are either contemplating aliya or are seeking a holiday home in Israel . WHILE MOST people were checking out their drawers and closets last week to get rid of breadcrumbs and any other form of leaven, guests of Kamur Motors, Israel distributors for BMW, were spending the brief period before Pessah checking out the new BMW X6 at a launch reception hosted by Kamur chairman Danny Brenner and Kamur CEO and former Chief of General Staff of the IDF Dan Halutz, for whom Brenner happily stepped aside six months ago, despite the cloud of the Winograd report that hung over Halutz's head. While the Winograd report may have found fault with the way that Halutz ran the IDF during the Second Lebanon War, the business community seemed to think that Halutz was a walking business asset and he was offered top ranking positions in a number of enterprises before deciding on Kamur, which in addition to paying him a handsome salary and stock options worth close to $2m. Attendees at the launch included Kamur partners Roni and Yoel Weiss, as well as, Uri Shani who once was the bureau chief for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and is currently a trouble shooter for business tycoon Arkady Gaydamak, soccer player Idan Tal, actor Nadav Abecassis, actress Shira Vilenski, dancer and choreographer Claude Dadia and numerous other well-known personalities. THE NEW head of Human Resources at the Tirat Carmel Mental Health Center is Moshe Lazer, 32, who was previously the center's security officer. A graduate of the University of Haifa , Lazer has a Master's degree in international relations and is currently completing a degree in human relations management within the framework of the Civil Service Commission.