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Did Fake Deeds Delay Anbang's $5.8B Hotel Portfolio Sale?

Essex House, Manhattan

Anbang Insurance Group has agreed on a deal to unload its U.S. luxury hotel portfolio, but not without a bizarre wrinkle.

The Chinese investment giant is under contract to sell 15 hotels, including Essex House on Central Park in New York and the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco, to Mirae Asset Financial Group, The Wall Street Journal reports. Anbang acquired the portfolio when it purchased Strategic Hotels & Resorts from Blackstone in 2016.

That $5.5B deal was a major part of a three-year spending spree for Anbang before the Chinese government restricted the investment of capital flowing beyond its borders. As part of that crackdown, the state nationalized Anbang and jailed its chairman on charges of fraud and embezzlement. 

Anbang may have been under pressure to divest from the U.S., but it still turned a profit — Mirae will pay $5.8B, $300M more than Anbang paid Blackstone, the WSJ reports. The Korean firm outbid major players such as Brookfield Asset Management, SoftBank and GIC, Singapore's sovereign wealth fund. 

Now the WSJ reports the deal was delayed by as much as a month after Anbang discovered that some of the properties involved had been fraudulently transferred to an anonymous LLC. In one instance, an LLC named Shr Holding Group transferred the Montage Laguna Beach to an entity called Andy Bang LLC, according to California property records.

The same individual was reportedly responsible for all of the transfers, which affected the Westin St. Francis and the Four Seasons Silicon Valley in East Palo Alto, among other California properties. How the maneuvering attempted to profit from the fraudulent deeds is unclear.