Tue, Apr 03, 2007 - Page 12 News List

Sunworld Dynasty chief eyes expansion

COMPLETE FACE-LIFT Renovation at the former Holiday Inn Asiaworld should take two years, after which its owner plans to display his Chinese art collections

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sunworld Dynasty Hotel Taipei general manager Victor Chou, left, shakes hands with Sunrider president Chen Oi-lin, center, and Sunworld chairman Chen Tei-fu at a conference in Taipei yesterday.

PHOTO: JACKIE LIN, TAIPEI TIMES

After taking over Holiday Inn Asiaworld Taipei in September and renaming it Sunworld Dynasty Hotel Taipei (王朝大酒店), chairman Chen Tei-fu (陳得福) plans to buy more hotels in Taiwan and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region to complement his giant herbal product business.

"I'm quite optimistic about Taiwan's economy and environment. It doesn't matter whether Taiwan has direct links with China or not. This small island has great potential," said Chen, who built his name and wealth via Sunrider International (仙妮蕾德), a Torrance, California-based direct-sales firm he founded in 1982.

Chen, who usually shies away from the press, yesterday made his first public appearance in Taipei to introduce the hotel's new management team after acquiring Sunworld Dynasty with his wife Chen Oi-lin (陳徐愛蓮), president of Sunrider.

Chen last year made his first transition into the hotel industry by buying three hotels in Taiwan and China for over NT$11 billion (US$330 million). He has invested an undisclosed amount in the five-star Sheraton Taipei.

Early last year, Chen took in Tianlun Dynasty Hotel (天倫王朝飯店) and Tianlun Songhe Hotel (天倫松鶴大酒店), both in Beijing, for over NT$4 billion. In May, he secured Holiday Inn Asiaworld Taipei for NT$7.04 billion after three public auctions to sell the poorly performing hotel failed.

These deals were fairly cheap considering their good locations in downtown areas, he said, adding that the firm would continue to hunt for ideal takeover targets in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taiwan, with possibilities also extending to Japan, South Korea, Australia and South Africa.

"The reason I stepped into the hotel industry is I want to integrate my business with culture and fashion," said Chen, who graduated from the pharmacy department of Kaohsiung Medical University.

With nearly 1 million Sunrider distributors in 40 nations, Chen plans to integrate resources and express his passion for fashion and image through his hotels. He said he will display some of his thousands of Chinese art collections -- currently stored in a museum in California -- in Sunworld Dynasty after an overall refit is completed.

Located at the intersection of Dunhua N Road and Nanjing E Road near Songshan Airport, Sunworld Dynasty was founded by Asiaworld Group (亞世集團) 25 years ago to become the nation's first hotel integrated with a department store.

However, lack of maintenance in recent years made the 750-room hotel appear rundown, which caused it to lose some of its competitive edge.

Chen expected the large-scale renovation -- including the outer walls, guest rooms, restaurants, ballrooms and basement parking space -- to take three years and over NT$2 billion to complete.

"We do not plan to demolish it for reconstruction as the hotel itself has a modern design. But after the face-lift, I'm confident it'll bloom for another two to three decades," Chen said.

He expected Sunworld Dynasty to rake in annual sales of up to NT$1.5 billion, from the current NT$900 million, by upgrading it to a five-star hotel with four-star rates.

In addition, because of his close relations with Sheraton Taipei, these two hotels will refer customers when one is fully booked, he said.

Chen yesterday also introduced the hotel's new general manager, Victor Chou (周武), who has more than 20 years' experience in the hotel business.

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