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Ian Schrager Completes Acquisition of the Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago;
Wants to Restore the Grandeur of the Faded Gold Coast Landmark

By Wailin Wong, Chicago TribuneMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

April 3, 2010 --The new owner of the Ambassador East hotel and the legendary Pump Room restaurant said he wants to restore the grandeur of the faded Gold Coast landmarks.

"It already has great DNA," New York-based hotelier Ian Schrager told the Tribune Friday. "It already has this great ethos and history and tradition. So it's a matter of going back in there and coming up with a product that's distinguishable from everything else in the marketplace."

Schrager officially took over the Chicago hotel Thursday. His acquisition of the property has been the subject of speculation for nearly a year. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, though he reportedly offered $25 million for the property. Local developers Peter Dumon and David Bossy, along with a former partner, purchased the 285-room Ambassador East for $44.5 million in 2005.

The hotelier kept mum on what the renovated property would look like. Planning will take about nine to 10 months, Schrager said, and the renovations another year. He said it has not been decided whether the hotel and restaurant will be closed during the work.

Schrager, whose wife hails from Evanston, said he's sensitive to the hotel's place in Chicago culture and is aware of previous controversies over the remakes of local icons, such as Macy's acquisition of Marshall Field's.

"For a hotel in the city to be successful, it has to be embraced and supported by the local people," he said. "We'll go in there with that purpose in mind."

The Ambassador East opened in 1926, followed by the Pump Room in 1938. The restaurant, which for years was a celebrity hub for Hollywood stars and celebrities such as Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra, recently had downsized its menu and scaled back operations.

Schrager, one of the owners of the famed Studio 54 nightclub in New York, is credited as the pioneer of the boutique hotel concept. The Ambassador East is his first Chicago property.

"To me, (Chicago is) a very elegant city," Schrager said. "I think it has probably the most beautiful architecture in all of America, and I just love the people, the simplicity, the basic honesty. We're going to try to do something that fits. We want to do a Chicago hotel. We're not looking to do a New York or California hotel in Chicago."

wawong@tribune.com

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