The Sultan of Brunei's Newest Foe

Music mogul Arnold Stiefel blasts the Sharia-law-loving owner of the Beverly Hills Hotel

Add music industry powerhouse Arnold Stiefel to the growing list of big names boycotting Los Angeles' Hotel Bel-Air and Beverly Hills Hotel. "The Polo Lounge and the Fountain Coffee Shop at the Beverly Hills Hotel are my beloved local commissaries," says Stiefel, the longtime manager for Rod Stewart, who also has represented Bette Midler, Prince and Toni Braxton, among others. But "as far as I'm concerned, going there now is tantamount to my endorsing the inhuman policies recently enacted in Brunei. No, I'm not going to vote for homosexuals being stoned to death. Who would?"

Stiefel is talking about the rising backlash to the decision by the Sultan of Brunei (Hassanal Bolkiah) to adopt Sharia law in his country - which entails levying harsh punishments on gays and women who have abortions. That move hits close to home because the Sultan owns the Dorchester Collection chain of luxury hotels including the Bel-Air and Beverly Hills Hotel - longtime favorites of the music world's power elite.

So Stiefel is joining the likes of Ellen DeGeneres, Richard Branson and Sharon Osbourne, and voting with his feet. "It's difficult to imagine having an impact on something that seems worlds away" by boycotting these establishments, he says. "But this is happening right here in Beverly Hills."

One of Stiefel's close friends, impresario Clive Davis, has decided to vacate a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel where he has hung his hat whenever he has visited L.A. for some 40 years. A source close to Davis describes his decision to relocate - to the Peninsula - as "a significant statement."

A Dorchester spokesman insists the hotels are run independently from London, despite the Sultan's ownership stake. But Stiefel's steering clear, nonetheless. "I'll confide I've been jonesing for [the Polo Lounge's McCarthy] salad for a couple of weeks now. But I'd rather go hungry."


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