As losses from an anti-Sharia boycott mount for the Bel-Air and Beverly Hills hotels, its effect on the owner's bottom-line may not be as important as the public shaming that comes along with it, according to an official at Human Rights Watch.
"I don't want to put some chambermaid at the Beverly Hills Hotel out of a job so the Sultan of Brunei might lose money on a minimal investment," said John Sifton, the Asia Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch. "Naming and shaming" is usually a better option than a boycott, he said.
The hotels' owners, the Brunei Investment Fund, has an estimated value of $40 billion, according to the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute. But calculating the actual value and its full investments is nearly impossible. "They are one of the least transparent funds on the planet," said Michael Maduell, president of the institute.
"The hotel assets are a real small part of their portfolio," which also include a lot of oil, real estate, stocks and exchange-traded funds, Maduell said. Brunei formerly made high-risk investments, but likely turned more conservative after a high-profile lawsuit, he said.
And yet the boycott of the Dorchester Collection hotels continues to grow, following publicity about the owners connection to the new Islamic law (Sharia) penalties in Brunei, an oil-rich country in southeast Asia on the island of Borneo next to Malaysia. The Bel-Air and Beverly Hills properties are among the 10 Dorchester luxury hotels owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, a branch of the government.
So far the boycott has been joined by celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres, Jay Leno, Stephen Fry and Sharon Osbourne; politicians including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; and businesses including Virgin and the CRUISE.co.uk travel agency.
California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom added his name to the boycott list via Twitter. "Headed to LA tomorrow. Two places I won't be visiting: the Bel Air & Beverly Hills hotels. Please join the boycott," he tweeted Thursday.
GLAAD also said it is returning donations from the Beverly Hills Hotel. In a letter posted Thursday on the organization's website, Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD's president and CEO wrote: "I know that you are working to rebuild your hotel's standing with the LGBT community as well as our allies, but GLAAD is not interested in being a public relations pawn."
The Los Angeles Jewish Home also canceled an event at the hotel, the Los Angeles Daily News reported Thursday.