San FranciscoSF History

With the Owner in Jail, The Westin St. Francis is for Sale!

The Westin St. Francis is up for sale, and its current owner is none other than the Chinese government.  Why?  Because its previous owner was Chinese insurance magnate We Xiaohui, and he was recently sentenced to 18 years in Chinese prison for fraud and embezzlement.  His Westin purchase was part of some $5.5 billion in assets that were seized from Chinese insurance company Anbang,  the company We Xiaohui was chairmen of.

Purchasing US real estate is a common practice for wealthy Chinese corporations as a way of sheltering their billions from the Chinese government.  In fact, many large developments in San Francisco have massive amounts of Chinese money in them.  Like the multiple blue glass highrises shooting up like weeds on Rincon Hill for example (many of them luxury units priced well above $1 million).  Its well known by realtors that Chinese buyers are the #1 foreign real estate investors in the Bay Area, and foreign investment in US real estate jumped up by 40% in 2017.  If you want to read about those numbers here’s a good source.

The ‘Lumina’ apartments on Rincon Hill are just one of many Chinese funded developments in San Francisco

The Westin St. Francis Hotel is rumored to be worth somewhere in the $1 billion range.  It’s a historic building and Union Square mainstay built in 1904 by descendants of railroad baron Charles Crocker (one of the Big Four), and you probably recognize it by its outdoor glass elevators and red awnings.   Some 18 different US presidents have stayed there, and it has a great view from top floors, although you need a room key to use them now…unless of course, you’re a bit sneaky and get on the elevator at the same time as a Chinese billionaire, on their way to the penthouse.

View of Westin from the ground

View from the top. You can’t go up the glass elevators without a roomkey these days, but you can alway sneak on, when a rich person decides to go up their room.

 

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Alex Mak - Managing Editor

Alex Mak - Managing Editor

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