The Lido Hotel: How Alexander Adamescu ruined one of the first hotels in Bucharest
The Lido Hotel was one of the landmarks of interwar Bucharest — a city that back then bore the nickname “Little Paris” due to its resemblance to the French capital. The Lido opened on June 28th, 1930, brandishing a luxurious architecture and the first pool with waves in Europe, complete with underwater spotlights that lured and fascinated Bucharest’s beau monde.
Now, the Lido lies deserted and derelict on one of Bucharest’s main avenues, a hotel long embroiled in complex legal battles and shady accounting schemes. How did an iconic building in the centre of Bucharest worth €10 million end up as a grey, boarded-up wreck?
A fabulous start
It was characteristic for the lifestyle of those crazy years. Beauties such as Miss Austria, Miss Serbia, Miss Turkey or Miss Bucharest were paid to bathe in the waves of the Lido and delight the sunbathers with their Jentzen bathing suits (extremely tight and body fitted, much like contemporary Lycra ones) as live jazz music played and fiery dancers gave their best on the same stage that at night showcased a roll-down movie screen. It was a meeting place for local celebrities, members of the royal family and the nobility and of the most important foreign visitors to the Romanian capital.
This jewel in the crown of Bucharest was designed by French architect Ernest Doneaud and was built by the Lido Collective Name Society (SNC), which merged two plots of land to raise the gigantic complex. The hotel was built on one land granted by the Bucharest City Hall to SNC Lido for 15 years in order to raise a building made of basement, ground floor and four floors (which on the ground became six), on a surface of 900 square metres, and a pool and the Lido House housing the restaurant and terrace, which were built on a land that belonged to Doctor Constantin Angelescu.
However, in 1940 Doctor Angelescu claimed both lands as his, certainly due to the leniency of King Carol II after Angelescu had become a member of the Royal Council of Carol II and one of the leading members of the National Renaissance Front — the totalitarian and ultra-authoritarian party ruled by Carol II. This illegal duplicate would eventually set the scene for a tortuous retrocession case in 1993.
The Lido complex was nationalised in 1949 and was reopened to the public in 1957, under the same name — much to the displeasure of then Prime Minister Dr. Petru Groza, who wrote to the leaders of the country to point out that it was unacceptable that the pool bore the name of a place where in the interwar period “business people had lunch on the terrace while looking at various beauties bathing”, and instead suggested that it be called “the Carpathians”. It was managed by the Bucharest Hotels and Restaurants Tourism Enterprise and was one of the hotels preferred by tourists and the members of the Communist party, even though at the time the atmosphere was a lot more austere and less luxurious than in the heyday of the Lido. (Here is some footage of the Lido in 1964 in a documentary produced by British Pathé.)
The Adamescu family steps into the fray
After 1990, the ownership of the hotel changed hands several times, until it was at last granted to the Romania Intercontinental Hotel Company (CHIR) in 1999. At the time, CHIR’s majority shareholders were the Paunescu brothers, whose ownership was being threatened by the heirs of Doctor Angelescu. They had sued the Romanian state and were asking to have the Lido complex returned to them. This prompted the Paunescus to go to mind-boggling lengths to prevent the retrocession, even after it had been definitively decided on by the court.
In 2005, they created Bucharest Lido Hotel Ltd, a company whose social capital was the Lido Hotel Company itself and which had CHIR as its single shareholder. It was a company that should have been worth €10 million in cash but was instead worth nothing because its value had been declared lost in 2007 through the creation of a 33.264.800 RON (6.357.708,04 GBP) provision. This provision was created to pave the way for a decrease in social capital if the court eventually decided in favour of the Angelescu family.
Enter Alexander Adamescu, who becomes President of the Board of CHIR in 2009, after a takeover by The Nova Group Investments Corp, a company also managed by him. Soon enough, Adamescu reduced the social capital of the Lido Hotel Ltd from 33.264.800 RON (6.357.708,04 GBP) to 200 RON (38,22 GBP), without notifying the authorities. Because it was only 200 RON, the Board did not need the approval of the General CHIR Shareholders Meeting when it ceded the company to Savile Estate Investments BV, a Dutch offshore led by the same Herm Holding BV which also manages The Nova Group Investments BV, the trust which oversees most of the Adamescus’ firms.
When the High Court of Cassation and Justice decided that the Romanian State needed to indemnify the Lido Hotel company €10 million (adjusted for inflation) for having been forced to transfer ownership of an asset that was part of its social capital, the company was no longer accountable to shareholders. They lost their money and over the last 10 years they have been given only a small part of the dividends that were rightfully theirs. However, the shareholders who own 27% of the shares of Intercontinental found out that Alexander was currently managing both the Intercontinental and the Dutch company, sued him and asked for the ceding contract to be rescinded for having been signed under illegal conditions. So, four days after the first hearing, Savile Estate Investments BV decided to void the contract.
Where is the money now? N/A. The waves of the Lido stop here: Alexander Adamescu sold his own family €10 million stolen from shareholders for 200 RON. He denies all charges.