The sale to Solari
Frequent changes to the registered name were a lead-up to the sale of the hotel to a Chilean businessman named Solari. It was the end of an ever-more obvious decline, and coincided with the collapse of Buenos Aires as hotel showcase, as another product of the economic policy that was sinking into recession and making the city very expensive in dollars for tourists. Competition from big international chains that were starting to show up in the country, with more modern and luxurious facilities, began to push the Bauen out of the center of the hotel scene.
At the beginning of 1997,1 the tower at Callao 360 finally wound up in the hands of the “Chilean Solari group,” while the Iurcoviches held on to the BAUEN Suite and its other businesses. The sale, carried out February 24, 1997, was for twelve million peso-dollars, although in the end, Solari would only pay four million. Like everything related to the group’s business, there is a certain lack of clarity in this operation.
At first glimpse, it looks like a skillful move by Iurcovich, who was getting out from under a hotel that, as he himself would admit to Clarín, needed updates and was losing market, which was due – in a curious self-forgiveness – “to wear from the passage of time and the lack of investments.”2 According to the same article, the BAUEN had already been relegated to the third category in the Argentine hospitality ranking by that time, working “with contingents of Brazilian and Chilean tourists who buy packages for well below the 145 pesos for double occupancy at the official rate.” Still, it is debatable whether this a matter of business acumen: the “Chilean Solari group” that Clarín mentions was not a group, but an individual, Félix Santiago Solari Morello, who was coming off several restaurant failures on the other side of the [Andean] mountain range. The only thing he shared with the real Solari group, which owns the famous Falabella chain, was his last name (see box). The question that remains is whether Félix Solari really could have closed a deal of such magnitude.