New management, familiar faces as Ilikai Hotel reopens for business

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Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

*logoAfter several months of uncertainty, and more than two weeks of outright closure, Waikiki's famed Ilikai Hotel reopened for business July 24 under new management.

Citing what it called "a recommitment to the Hawaiian tradition and culture that made the Ilikai famous," the property's owners, New York-based iStar Financial Inc., reached a July 10 agreement with the hotel workers' union to rehire 50 of the hotel's 75 unionized employees based on seniority. Union members ratified that agreement July 15.

"We would like to thank the local community, the travel industry and guests for their support during this transition period," said Ike Cockett, general manager of the Ilikai, in a July 21 reopening announcement. "We were all touched by the many past, present and future guests who called to express support."

"Our longtime employees are part of the Ilikai's legacy and charm," Cockett added. "And we are pleased they will be able to continue the tradition of high-quality service our guests have come to expect."

Hotel Management Services, a subsidiary of Aqua Hotels & Resorts, takes over management of the hotel.

Built in 1964 and generally considered Hawaii's first high-rise luxury hotel, the Ilikai was purchased for $51 million by iStar at an April foreclosure auction after the previous owner, developer Brian Anderson, defaulted on the 2006 loan he used to purchase the 1,009-unit building.

Made famous thanks to an opening scene on the iconic TV program "Hawaii Five-O," featuring series star Jack Lord on one of the property's picturesque balconies, the 203-room Ilikai Hotel and its financial troubles have spawned a range of front-page headlines across the state over the last six months.

Many of the Ilikai employees returning under the new union contract have worked at the hotel for more than 30 years.

"The last week has been a rollercoaster of emotions," said Lorna Marcos, a 25-year housekeeping clerk at the Ilikai, in a statement released by Unite Here Local 5 after its members ratified the new agreement. "But I'm very happy with today's vote because it moves us one step closer to getting back to work, and it gives us the opportunity to work hard to make the new Ilikai a success."

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