Goldman Sachs Shopping a Stake in Cipriani

Amid tough economic times and legal problems, the famed Cipriani hotel and restaurant empire is looking to find a partner, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Cipriani family has hired Goldman Sachs to find a party interested in buying what is being shopped as a minority stake in the restaurant-luxury hotel company, according to these sources. The minority stake could be as much as 49% of company because the Ciprianis want to maintain control, these people said.

People close to matter say the stake could fetch as much as a half of a billion dollars, which places the valuation of Cipriani at about $1 billion.

The Cipriani empire includes pricey restaurants in New York, banquet and party halls, residences in lower Manhattan, private clubs, and of course the famous Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy.

The Cipriani family has been facing mounting economic and legal pressures, and recently had settle tax claims. The restraurant chain also is in the midst of a controversy with the New York State Liquor Authority, which could determine in August the fate of the restaurant's all-important liquor license.

However, the legal issues may be winding down, according to bankers familiar with the plan to sell a stake in the restaurant.

According to sources, a sovereign wealth fund from the Middle East has already expressed interest in buying a stake.

Separately, Goldman also is shopping the sale of famed sushi restaurant Nobu.

Officials from Cipriani and Goldman had no comment.