BEVERLY HILLS, CA-Nightclub owner Sam Nazarian has launched SLS Hotels, a new brand that will transform the Le Meridien hotel into a renamed property called SLS Los Angeles in early 2008 as the first of five luxury hotels in the new chain’s original plan. SBE, which acquired Le Meridien at Beverly Hills in November 2005, has struck a deal with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide for Starwood to manage the Beverly Hills property.

Nazarian, whose nightclubs include the popular Area and Hyde Lounge clubs in Hollywood, will operate the SLS brand under SBE Hotel Group, a division of his SBE Entertainment Group. In addition to the US, the SLS group will ultimately include hotels and resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean.

Nazarian says that SLS “is not an exact acronym for anything in particular” but is intended to be developed into a new brand that is the ultimate in luxury hotels. Nazarian’s hotel holdings already include Miami’s Ritz Plaza, which his company is currently redeveloping along with Newport Beach-based Makar Properties and is slated to reopen under the new flag in mid-2008.

The new brand is the latest in a series of hotel and entertainment ventures for SBE, which reached an agreement in March to acquire the Sahara Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas along with equity partner Stockbridge Real Estate Funds of San Mateo. The Sahara is the hotel immortalized by the Rat Pack as the setting of the original “Ocean’s Eleven” film starring Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.

SLS has signed a deal with hotel and restaurant designer Philippe Starck to create the look and feel of all SLS properties under a 15-year design exclusive with SBE for North America, the Caribbean and Mexico. In addition, it has named chef Jose Andres to oversee all food and beverage development for SLS properties.

Starwood will manage the Los Angeles property under its Luxury Collection brand, which includes the Gritti Palace in Venice, the Phoenician in Phoenix and the recently opened Marques de Riscal in the Rioja region of Spain. White Plains, NY-based Starwood is one of the world’s largest hospitality chains, with more than 850 properties in more than 95 countries.

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