Off with their beds!
By Janet Guyon

(FORTUNE Magazine) – WHEN BARRY STERNLICHT'S Starwood Capital Group bought l'Hôtel de Crillon from the Taittinger family in July, the last of the crème de la crème of Parisian hotels passed out of French hands. The Plaza Athénée is owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, Egyptian businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed owns the Ritz, and Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal owns the George V. But the French don't seem to be resisting this invasion.

Four Seasons, the manager of the George V--which is named after the British, not the French, monarch--says homegrown management maintains a French connection. "We have a French general manager, the director of marketing is French, and the chef is as French a chef as you can get," says Elizabeth Pizzinato, a spokesman for Four Seasons based in Toronto. "It is really important to make a hotel feel authentic."

At the Plaza Athénée, the décor is French, and so is the food at Alain Ducasse's eponymous restaurant. "I am French!" says the hotel's general manager François Delahaye. "In fact, there is no aspect of a stay in our hotel that could be thought of as anything but French."

Sternlicht won't talk about how he plans to maintain a certain je ne sais quoi at le Crillon--he's afraid of raising French hackles about American influence. "We're trying to maintain a low profile until the deal closes" this fall, says a Starwood spokesman. But while President Jacques Chirac went ballistic at the prospect of Pepsi buying Danone, he hasn't raised a fuss over the hotels. Apparently France says oui to hotels but non to yogurt. -- Janet Guyon