Friday, April 24, 2009

Ismailis in the News - Meghji's expand Alberta hotel empire

Rahim Meghji along with Amin Meghji with Platinum Investments outside of their Hilton Garden Inn hotel at 17610 Stony Plain Road
Photograph by: Walter Tychnowicz, Edmonton Journal

Family brings Platinum luxury to city
Two new hotels planned by 2011
The Edmonton JournalApril 22, 2009

Amin Meghji's family owned a soap, glycerine and oil manufacturing empire in Kenya and Tanzania, and he lived a life of luxury in Nairobi with five servants.
Then nationalization of large companies, first in Tanzania and later Kenya, forced him to flee to Canada in 1976.
"We were really spoiled in Africa. If we wanted anything done we just ordered the staff to do it. Then we came to Edmonton and I had to do my own laundry," Amin says with a laugh.
He can afford to chuckle these days. Platinum Investments, the family company he runs with nephews Ali and Rahim, owns two of the city's top-rated hotels and is building another two in the next two years despite the slow economy.
The five-year-old Hilton Garden Inn and the more recent Hampton Inn and Suites -- both in the west end -- are rated the top two city hotels by travellers on the Trip Advisor website.
And they hope the Marriott Courtyard, under construction at 184th Street and 100th Avenue, and the nearby Marriott Residence Inn, due in 2011, will be just as successful.
It hasn't been easy. They were able to take advantage of the late-'70s boom by buying the 10-unit Parkland Motel on the west edge of the city, and expanding it to 40 rooms, while Amin's wife, Shahbegum, developed her Mill Woods medical practice.
They lost their downtown highrise apartment building to the bank during the '80s recession, but survived to run the Coliseum Inn next to Rexall Place for a number of years.
"We're proud we were able to get Hilton back into Edmonton," says Ali. "It wasn't easy because they had failed before (with the current Sutton Place), and weren't getting a lot of franchisee applications. But we brought them up here and they liked what we were doing."
Hampton Inns and Marriott also were impressed with the collegial approach taken by the Meghjis, an Ismaili Muslim family of Indian descent, to the hospitality industry.
"We believe in prayer and what has happened to us in Edmonton has been a miracle," Amin says.
"You can change stones into gold if you believe, but it has to benefit everyone else as well as you."
The only regret is that Amin's older brother, Alaudin -- the visionary of the family -- is not around to see the latest success.
He died two weeks after the Hilton opened in 2004.

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