Guy Laliberté behind Rio Tinto Alcan hotel bid
BY ALLISON LAMPERT, THE GAZETTE SEPTEMBER 15, 2011 8:02 PM
Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté is behind a firm bid to buy and convert the historic Montreal headquarters of Rio Tinto Alcan into a hotel, The Gazette has learned.
The deal, which has not closed - and which is now in the buyer’s due dilligence period - would have Laliberté, with the Cirque and a private investor acquire the sprawling Alcan campus in the posh Golden Square Mile for an undisclosed amount, multiple sources say.
The minimum bidding price for the campus’s seven buildings - including the old Berkeley Hotel which serves as its main entrance - is $30 million, the sellers’ report shows.
In the spring, the global aluminum giant quietly put its Sherbrooke St. W. campus up for sale as a three-year leaseback.
News of the campus hitting the market followed a Gazette report that Rio Tinto Alcan was shopping around for about 200,000 square feet of office space as anchor tenant in what would be the first privately funded office tower built downtown in years. Indeed, the spectre of a new tower in Montreal - devoted exclusively to office space - sparked excitement in a real estate community that had seen five towers delivered in downtown Toronto over the past two years alone.
Rio Tinto Alcan Spokesperson Bryan Tucker said he could not comment on the sale of the estimated 300,000 square foot headquarters, which he said is confidential.
“I can confirm to you that no decision has been made,” Tucker said.
Citing industry sources last spring, The Gazette also revealed that Westcliff Group is poised to secure the corporate giant as the main tenant in a LEED-platinum office tower to be built on its site near the ICAO building at the Place de la Cité Internationale. Westcliff president Alan Marcovitz once again declined to comment when contacted this week.
Louis Burgos, senior managing director of Cushman & Wakefield Montreal, which is brokering the deal, could not be reached for comment.
Although specific plans for a future hotel on the Alcan site have not been revealed, the Cirque has previously flirted with the idea of opening hotels as a way to showcase its acts.
In late 2001, the Cirque announced it was considering a $100 million Montreal prototype of what would become several “Cirque Complexes” - a concept featuring a 1,200-seat theater, 300-room hotel, spa and restaurants, that would later be spread to other cities like London and Tokyo, news reports said.
A year later, however, Cirque management nixed the idea over concerns that the economic climate - including a downturn in the global hospitality industry - made the venture too risky.
The sale of the Maison Alcan site would be a move from Rio Tinto Alcan’s earlier plans to invest millions of dollars to renovate the campus.
That pledge - which Tucker insists still remains on the table - stems from
an agreement that was both part of Alcan’s 2006 power deal with the provincial government and part of its 2007 takeover by global mining giant Rio Tinto in a blockbuster $38-billion U.S. deal, cleared by Ottawa.
Some critics have suggested that the move would be followed by a reduction in Rio Tinto Alcan’s Montreal-based workforce.
Last winter, however, a spokesperson for former Economic Development Minister Clément Gignac said Rio Tinto Alcan would still be abiding by the deal, even it moves to another Montreal site as a tenant.
“As long as the head office remains in Quebec, it respects the agreement,” the spokesperson told The Gazette.
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