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LAS VEGAS-The Light Group, a Vegas-based nightclub operator that is expanding into the hotel business, has sold a 50% stake in its operations to Zabeel Investments of Dubai as part of a plan to expand its hospitality and entertainment operations nationally and internationally. The deal is the first US venture for Zabeel, an investment house controlled by Dubai Holdings, a Dubai government conglomerate.

Group founder and owner Andrew Sasson says the deal kicks off a new chapter of expansion for the company. “More and more the developments and growth found in the UAE and the wider region are leading the way internationally in terms of scope and ambition,” he says. “[The partnership] will see us escalating our portfolio throughout the US and further afield … we intend to embark on a number of pioneering projects.”

Light Group, which operates a number of nightclubs within MGM Mirage properties, is new to the hotel business. Its first gig is the operation of Harmon Hotel & Residences, a luxury property which is under construction on the Las Vegas Strip as part of CityCenter, a massive development being developed by MGM Mirage and Dubai World, another Dubai government conglomerate whose companies include Nakheel, developer of the Palm and World man-made islands off the coast of Dubai. Among other things, Zabeel is currently developing the Tiara Residence on Nakheel’s Palm Jumeirah island.

Zabeel Investments’ executive chairman, HE Mohammed Ali Al Hashimi says his company’s goal is to further develop the resort industry in the UAE and across the region, an effort that will benefit from Light Group’s experience restaurants, entertainment venues, and now hotels. “In turn, we intend to support the Light Group as it continues to expand its hotel management, food and beverage, and entertainment portfolio further into key US cities.”

In explaining the companies’ interest in expanding in the Middle East, Zabeel and Light Group cite a report published by Global Futures and Foresight in May 2007. The report estimates that over the course of the next 20 years more than $3 trillion will be invested in the leisure and tourism industry in the Arab world. If true, it would warrant at least 200 new hotels, according to the report.

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