Gaddafi 'has no direct stake in Michelangelo'

Johannesburg - Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has no direct shareholding in either the luxury Michelangelo Hotel in Sandton or in Legacy Hotels, but the people of Libya do have, said Legacy chief executive Bart Dorrestein on Friday.

Dorrestein was reacting to media reports that the Libyan dictator was a shareholder in Legacy, which owns and operates 19 luxury hotels in South Africa and also manages the Michelangelo in Sandton.

Libya is experiencing insurrection aimed at removing Gaddafi from power.

Dorrestein said a company called Ensemble Hotel Holdings holds a less than 40% stake in Legacy and it owns the Michelangelo Hotel. Ensemble is owned by the Libyan Arab African Investment Corporation (Laaico), which represents the people of Libya and is similar to a sovereign wealth fund.

These funds are normally investment funds in state hands, and comprise investments in assets like bonds, shares, property and other financial instruments. The funds are globally invested.

The management and chairperson of Ensemble have confirmed that the Gaddafi family has no interest in Laaico’s investments, said Dorrestein.

He said the investment was made in 1999 after Libya began to rehabilitate the country and the investments were supported by the South African government.

The Libyan ambassador in South Africa said that any Laaico investments in South Africa belonged to the people of Libya, no matter who was at the head of the government.

He said that, no matter what happened, the South African assets were protected by a pre-purchase agreement in terms of which the Legacy Group had a pre-emptive right to buy any shares that the Libyans might want to sell.

This ensured that the shareholders and the assets were protected and not exposed to the risks of the Libyan situation.

Meanwhile, the Michelangelo had examined its records to see whether any Gaddafis had ever stayed there. Two were found, but no Muammar, and the two guests had paid their bill in the normal manner.

Dorrestein said that Libya’s internal problems should not be allowed to affect successful investments made in South Africa on behalf of the people of Libya.

It was even more important that the problems should not be permitted to affect the group’s 3 000 employees.
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