1664736367 NYCs Four Seasons Hotel in standoff with Beanie Babies mogul

NYC’s Four Seasons Hotel in standoff with Beanie Babies mogul — and could remain closed for years

New York’s Four Seasons Hotel has remained conspicuously closed since the pandemic began – and insiders say it risks staying closed for years due to an increasingly bizarre row with the billionaire founder of toy empire Beanie Babies.

Designed by architect IM Pei at 57 East 57th St., the luxury icon, whose spacious penthouse suite by Ty Warner cost $50,000 a night before the hotel closed in March 2020, now resembles an abandoned building.

The 54-story tower’s grand Art Nouveau-inspired entrances are blocked by metal pedestrian barricades. The flags on the French limestone facade have been taken down and the front windows are covered with brown paper and advertising posters.

That’s despite the fact that all of the Four Seasons’ luxury competitors — including The Ritz-Carlton, The Palace, the St. Regis, The Carlyle, and the Mandarin Oriental — reopened more than a year ago and are reportedly doing solid, if not spectacular business as demand for luxury travel declines.

A derelict looking Four Seasons, with a person sitting on the boutique windowsill.The entrances are barricaded and the once swanky shop windows are covered with brown paper. Helayne Seidman for the NY Post

The Four Seasons Hotel on E. 57th St. has been closed since March 2020.The Four Seasons Hotel on E. 57th St. has been closed since March 2020. Helayne Seidman for NY Post

Neighbors are skeptical of a claim on the Four Seasons website that the Midtown Manhattan landmark is “temporarily closed as it undergoes extensive infrastructure and maintenance work that is expected to continue well into 2022” — language that even suggests has been in effect since last fall. As the hotel informed the union representatives, it is aiming to reopen in spring 2022.

“I’ve never seen trucks parked in front of the building hauling things out,” said August Ceradini, who runs Eight and a Half, the chic lobby restaurant at 9 East 57th St., the posh office tower across the street. “There’s not the kind of activity that suggests they’re reconstructing anything inside.”

In fact, sources told the Post that the hotel has been held hostage by an epic contract dispute between management company Four Seasons and Ty Warner, the reclusive toy tycoon who owns the posh high-rise. At issue is the fact that the hotel has been losing money for years — even before the pandemic hit, according to property records.

Ty Warner leans on a balcony.Ty Warner bought the NYC Four Seasons property in 1999 for $275 million. Corbis via Getty Images

Warner — a former door-to-door encyclopedia salesman who made a fortune estimated by Forbes at $3.8 billion while leading the Beanie Babies plush toy craze of the 1990s — has resisted the high upkeep fees being charged by the Four Seasons, the sources said. In response, the hotel chain has rejected his request that it adjust its fees based on the hotel’s profitability, or lack thereof, the sources said.

“It’s clear that Four Seasons and Ty Warner are at odds, making it difficult to reach an agreement and move forward,” said a source with knowledge of the situation.

Warner and the Four Seasons – which do not own any of the more than 100 hotels worldwide under their banner but operate them for various owners – have been in talks for the past 18 months about a clause in their contract to settle disputes to end the secret negotiations to stay out of the public eye. It’s not uncommon for such cases to take years to resolve, industry experts tell The Post.

The entrance to the hotel in better times.The hotel was once the most expensive in Manhattan, charging well over $1,000 a night. Set Gottfried

“It’s in limbo … he’s not selling the building,” another hotel insider said of Warner, estimating it would be three to four years before the hotel opens. “He’s not a distressed owner and Four Seasons has a management agreement and they’re at war.”

As travel returns to the Big Apple, industry insiders are wondering if the city’s most expensive hotel will ever gain traction again. As The Post previously reported, the extended closure is fueling speculation that Warner, 78, was trying to wriggle out of his long-term deal with Four Seasons. Industry insiders say that would likely be a steep climb.

“The owner is burdened with an agreement — he can’t kick her out and pick Rosewood or Dorchester,” a hotel insider told the Post, referring to the owners of The Carlyle and Beverly Hills hotels in Los Angeles, respectively.

“What’s more interesting to me is how people can have such an incredible asset just sitting there,” the source added.

Ty Warner surrounded by Beanie Babies.Ty Warner became a billionaire in the 1990s from Beanie Babies.Getty Images

A Ty Warner representative did not respond to calls and emails for comment. Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts also did not respond to requests for comment.

Warner bought the property for $275 million in 1999 — just seven years after the hotel opened at a cost of $475 million to its developers. At the time, the hotel was reportedly generating $30 million a year in operating income. But the business has had a bumpy road since then, several industry insiders tell the Post.

“Ty didn’t like the way Four Seasons was running the hotel because he wasn’t making any money, and that was the root of the whole argument between them,” said Ceradini, a veteran hotel executive and former manager of the St. Regis hotel . “From what I understand of Ty Warner’s personality, he won’t stop until he gets what he wants.”

The Four Seasons lost money in 2018 and 2019, according to city records. Many luxury hotels in the Big Apple suffered in the years leading up to the pandemic from falling profits due to rising wages and increased competition from new hotels, according to Sean Hennessey, professor at York University’s New Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality.

“There are few things that upset an owner than when the property isn’t making a profit but the manager is being paid well,” Hennessy said.

Ty Warner in a suit and tie.Ty Warner and Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts are said to be locked in a bitter dispute over the terms of their contract. Tribune News Service via Getty I

Another issue, according to an industry source: “The Four Seasons has a lot of rooms. They are big and that is a challenge.”

Hotel workers, meanwhile, have sued Warner and Four Seasons, alleging they were “deliberately delaying reopening” to avoid paying millions of dollars in unpaid wages and severance payments, according to the proposed class action lawsuit filed in federal court in lower Manhattan in August .

A similar lawsuit was filed in Santa Barbara, Calif., in February by employees at Warner’s still-closed Biltmore Hotel — also a Four Seasons property — leading some to speculate that Warner is waging “guerrilla warfare” against Four Seasons, according to one Report from the Santa Barbara Independent. The 450 Biltmore employees are owed up to $8 million in severance pay.

The hotel was closed “for reasons other than those they provide to the plaintiffs,” the New York complaint said, noting that the hotel has undergone numerous renovations over the years, “and has never closed to guests “.