Cowdray is right to point out the complexity of global corporations and other shady investments, but that doesn't mean people are misguided by making connections between bad laws in one part of the world and economic decisions they make at home.
The Dorchester Collection is facing boycotts and criticism over its owner’s praise of and support for state-sanctioned killings of gays, lesbians, and adulterers in Brunei.
But it’s not taking the criticism sitting down.
After a week of relative silence following high-profile cancellations, protests, promises of boycotts, and statements of rebuke by travel leaders such as Richard Branson, CEO Christopher Cowdray has come out strongly against critics.
“The actions they’re taking are unfounded,” Cowdray told CNN. “It’s going to hurt our employees and this has nothing to do with them whatsoever. It’s not their fight.”
The Dorchester Hotel Collection is a group of ten high-end hotels in Los Angeles, London, Paris, Milan, Rome, and Geneva. It is owned by an investment group controlled by the the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah. In April Brunei enacted a strict interpretation of Sharia law that would, among other things, impose sentences of death by stoning for people found guilty of homosexuality or adultery.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “The sultan has called it a ‘great achievement’ by his country in adopting the new laws.”
In an interview with The Guardian, Cowdray highlighted the complexity of companies with foreign ownership. “It is not just about the sultan of Brunei,” he said. “These laws exist in other parts of the world.”
“There are other hotel companies in this city that are owned by Saudi Arabia,” Cowdray told Reuters. “You know, your shirt probably comes from a country which has human rights issues.”
This past weekend, Dorchester used Twitter in an attempt to deflect a boycott by Virgin Atlantic employees. Virgin operates a code-share flight with Singapore Airlines to Brunei.
— DorchesterCollection (@DC_LuxuryHotels) May 4, 2014
The rally on Monday in Los Angeles also gained momentum in social media via #StopTheSultan.
Yesterday, the Beverly Hills City Council passed a resolution that asked the government of Brunei to change its laws or divest its ownership of the hotel.
Other Hollywood fixtures, including Jay Leno and Ellen Degeneres have been vocal about their planned boycott of the Dorchester Group.
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Photo credit: Christopher Cowdray, chief executive of the Dorchester Collection, said a boycott "won't stop the implementation" of the new laws, but rather would "only hurt the employees." Al Seib / Reuters