Owner’s feud with Four Seasons leaves Midtown hotel in limbo

Shuttered property missed spring reopening target, claiming construction

Beanie Babies founder Ty Warner and 57 East 57th Street (Getty Images, MBandman, CC BY 2.0 - via Wikimedia Commons)
Beanie Babies founder Ty Warner and 57 East 57th Street (Getty Images, MBandman, CC BY 2.0 - via Wikimedia Commons)

The owner of a Manhattan Four Seasons is not backing down in an alleged dispute with the hotel chain, keeping the iconic Midtown property shuttered.

The hotel at 57 East 57th Street may be closed for years due to the feud between Ty Warner and the brand, people familiar told the New York Post. The hotel previously said it was targeting reopening in the spring of 2022, but its website says infrastructure and maintenance work could last “well into” the year, which is nearly over.

The property’s street-level windows are shrouded in brown paper, and an operator at a nearby restaurant told the outlet they hadn’t seen evidence of construction work at the property.

Upkeep at the Four Seasons is a costly endeavor. Warner— the Chicago billionaire behind iconic toy brand Beanie Babies — has reportedly balked at operating costs as the hotel lost money, even in the years before the pandemic decimated the city’s hospitality industry. The hotel chain, meanwhile, has little interest in adjusting its fees to match the profitability levels of the hotel.

It’s the kind of dispute that could linger for years, industry experts told the Post. The two sides have been quietly negotiating for 18 months, but progress has been hard to come by.

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The standoff was reported last November, when the a representative of the hotel workers’ union told the Post preparations were taking place to reopen the 57 East 57th Street property in the spring, despite the dark clouds being cast by the dispute.

The feuding foes are on the same side of another issue at the hotel, this between its employees and those who run and manage the property. A proposed class-action suit filed in August claimed the hotel’s reopening was being stalled to duck millions in unpaid wages and severance.

Warner, a reclusive billionaire behind the famed toy line, purchased the property in 1999 for $275 million, seven years after the hotel opened. It cost $475 million for the hotel to be developed.

The Four Seasons doesn’t own any of the properties in its portfolio, instead operating the hotels on behalf of owners. That opens the company up to disputes when the two parties fail to see eye-to-eye.

— Holden Walter-Warner