Indian tycoon Subrata Roy is putting up the two trophy properties and another luxury New York hotel for sale to raise $1.6 billion for the bail bond that will get him out of Tihar, a sprawling New Delhi prison complex that houses about 12,000 inmates.
About a minutes walk from the headquarters of the prison, Roy now has a 600 square feet (56 square metre) office where he can hold video conferences and receive visitors to try and sell or mortgage the hotels, say prison officials.
In a small adjoining room, there are three beds for Roy and two associates who have also been jailed.
They are happy, they can now talk to known people all day, said one Tihar official, who described the setup to a Reuters reporter visiting the prison. He is very satisfied with the arrangement.
Our work will be done now, Roy told a senior prison officer after moving to the new office-cum-cell, according to the official.
Entry to the office was not possible because Roy was inside and contact with prisoners is prohibited without permission. Three guards stood by an unlocked metal gate before the building, one stood on the roof and one patrolled its grounds. Its a race against time for the 66-year-old head of the Sahara conglomerate: Under a deadline set by the Supreme Court, Roy has just a few days left to post the 100 billion rupees in cash and bank guarantees that would secure his release.
Roy was jailed in March after he failed to appear at a contempt hearing in the long-running dispute with the capital markets watchdog over the companys failure to repay billions of dollars to investors who were sold outlawed bonds.
He is yet to be charged over the dispute and denies any wrongdoing. His Sahara group has vast real estate, media and hotel interests, part-owns a Formula 1 team and used to sponsor the Indian cricket team. One asset that could raise quick cash is the landmark New York Plaza Hotel a 107-year-old luxury property that overlooks Central Park. Studded with chandeliers, the hotels decor recalls the Great Gatsby era. Jointly owned with the Saudi Arabia-based Kingdom Holdings, the Plaza offers an overdose of luxury for guests in its 282 rooms, from round-the-clock butlers to in-room iPads for booking a restaurant or requesting a wake-up call.
Its 4,490 square-foot Royal Suite has three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a dining room for 12, a kitchen, a gymnasium, a grand piano and a library. It costs $30,000 a night.
Sahara bought the Plaza for about $570 million in 2012. Two years earlier, it paid 470 million ($790 million) for the 494-room Grosvenor House opposite Hyde Park and just a stones throw from Buckingham Palace. Opened in 1929, it houses the Great Room, which is one of Europes largest banqueting halls and can seat 2,000 guests. Sahara is also seeking to sell the Dream Hotel in New Yorks midtown Manhattan.
The properties are quite iconic and would be sold at the right price, said an international property consultant. Whatever Roy does, he does it in style.