November 25, 2008

Dubai hotel party costing £20m flies in face of recession

More than 2,000 guests attended, among them Robert de Niro, Michael Jordan and Charlize Theron, to hear Kylie Minogue perform a medley of her hits for which she received £1.5 million, or £33,333 a minute.

Kylie sang 10 songs as guests ate lobster, salmon, sushi, lamb, chicken and salads.

Her performance was followed by a £7 million fireworks display, said to be so spectacular it was visible from space.

Even Sol Kerzner, the South African businessman behind the £1 billion Atlantis Hotel and resort on the man-made Palm Island appeared faintly embarrassed at the sheer excess - and cost - of last night's party.

"If I had to do it all over again, I might do it recognising the fact that we're living through a bit of a tough economic environment," said Mr Kerzner.

He added: "We don't know how long it's going to take for the economy around the world to take off again. The economy is such that it is going to be challenging right here.

"You just cannot raise any finance. But I am trying to avoid being badly affected.

"One is going to have to be more and more effective in marketing and at the time being it is very, very difficult to predict ahead. There is a visibility of just four to five weeks."

There are fears Dubai may not be able to sustain such naked opulence. The emirate is said to be "groaning" under heavy debt of almost $50billion and banks have restricted lending to building projects. Like other stock markets around the world, shareprices in the Gulf have plunged in recent months.

On Palm Island, it is reported today that property prices have fallen as much as 40 per cent since September with four-bedroom villas now selling for 10 million UAE dirhams (£1.8 million).

None of which seemed to bother the guests at last night's hotel opening.

Other film stars who attended the grand opening included Lindsay Lohan, Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes.

High-street magnate Sir Philip Green, Sir Richard Branson and Srichand and Gopichand Hinduja were also there. British celebrities were well represented too, among them Dame Shirley Bassey, Lily Allen, Agyness Deyn and Jade Jagger. Actor Rhys Ifans spent most of the evening with singer Natalie Imbruglia.

Meanwhile Trinny Woodall, who has recently separated from her husband, revealed she had enjoyed dinner with Gerard Butler, the Scottish film actor and star of the film 300.

Asked if she was dating again following her split last month from Johnny Elichaoff, the 44-year-old TV presenter said of Butler: "He is a very sweet man, but really... oh, it's too soon."


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