Buyers of Mandarin Oriental on Strip finally revealed

Updated August 31, 2018 - 8:35 pm

When MGM Resorts International announced this spring that it was selling the Mandarin Oriental, it left out an important part: the buyers.

The $214 million deal closed this week, and even though MGM still didn’t say who bought it, we know who owns the luxury Strip hotel, now branded a Waldorf Astoria.

Andrew and Peggy Cherng, the billionaire founders of fast-food chain Panda Express, teamed with hotel investor Tiffany Lam to acquire the nongaming resort, according to a statement from Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas spokeswoman Erica Johnson.

The hotel is being operated by Hilton, which owns the Waldorf brand, and Lam will oversee its day-to-day landlord responsibilities, Johnson said.

The sale, by MGM Resorts and state-controlled holding company Dubai World, closed Thursday, property records show. Rebranding work has already started, including removal of Mandarin’s signature fan logo on the building’s exterior.

Lam has ownership stakes in Southern California hotels, but this was her first commercial real estate purchase in Las Vegas, said Phil Wolfgramm, senior vice president of acquisitions at Kam Sang Co., where he said Lam is vice president of operations.

According to Wolfgramm, Lam took part in the Mandarin purchase on her own, and Kam Sang as a company was not involved.

Lam could not be reached for comment Friday.

The Cherngs, co-CEOs of Panda Restaurant Group, are worth $2.9 billion, according to Forbes magazine.Their restaurant chain serves chow mein, broccoli beef and other Chinese food in malls and airports around the country, but the Cherngs have invested in Las Vegas real estate before.

They bought a four-building, 210,000-square-foot office complex in Summerlin last year for about $48 million, according to property records and a broker on the deal.

The couple could not be reached for comment.

A 47-story tower with hotel and condo units, the Mandarin Oriental was built as part of MGM’s multi-property CityCenter complex, which got started during the real estate bubble but opened in 2009, when the economy was a mess. Dubai World had agreed in 2007 to put $2.7 billion into CityCenter for 50 percent ownership.

CityCenter’s owners announced in April that they had reached a deal to sell the Mandarin and adjacent retail parcels for $214 million in cash, and they said Thursday that the deal had closed. But they did not identify the buyers in either press release.

MGM spokesman Brian Ahern did not elaborate Friday on the decision to stay mum on the new owners.

For its part, Hilton also didn’t announce the new owners’ names when it unveiled plans in May to turn the Mandarin into a Waldorf Astoria. Johnson said she did not know why that wasn’t included.

This isn’t the first time that MGM and Dubai World sold a big chunk of CityCenter. In 2016, Simon Property Group and Invesco Real Estate teamed up to acquire The Shops at Crystals, CityCenter’s 324,000-square-foot luxury mall, for about $1.1 billion.

MGM announced the buyers in that deal.

Contact Eli Segall at esegall@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0342. Follow @eli_segall on Twitter.

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