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Robert De Niro and Nobu Matsuhisa co-founded firm aims to top $1 billion in sales with sushi-hotel mix

by Natalie Wong

Bloomberg

Nobu Hospitality LLC, the sushi restaurant and luxury hotel chain founded by Robert De Niro, chef Nobu Matsuhisa and movie producer Meir Teper, expects to reach $1 billion in revenue in five years as it adds condos to its growing empire.

A key step in the company’s growth was its first foray into the condo market, with 660 units and 36 luxury-hotel suites above a Nobu restaurant in Toronto. The project, announced last year, sold out in three months. After starting with one sushi restaurant in New York in 1994, the company now has more than 40 locations, including London and Las Vegas, said Trevor Horwell, chief executive officer of closely held Nobu Hospitality.

“It’s quite a rapid growth,” Horwell said Monday while breaking ground at the Toronto project on Mercer Street in the entertainment district. “Normally in our restaurants we can have over 100,000 customers a year. All we’ve got to do is convert 10 to 15 percent of those customers to fill our hotels. So that’s why we went into hotels.”

Nobu Hospitality hopes to complete the two-tower Toronto project, which may cost as much as 300 million Canadian dollars ($230 million), in 30 months, Horwell said. Hotel room rates are expected to be as much as CA$800 per night, and condo units will average CA$850,000. Most of the condo units were presold to local residents, said Josh Zagdanski, vice president for high rises at the Toronto-based developer Madison Group.

“I’ve done movies here, a festival here, and it’s a logical place for us to open,” said De Niro, who also attended the groundbreaking, complete with gold shovels and the famed taiko drumming ensemble Nagata Shachu.

The company has committed to two more mixed-use developments — one in Sao Paulo and one in Los Cabos, Mexico — and is on the lookout for opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region, including Taipei, Hong Kong, Jakarta and Sydney, Horwell said. It is looking at Vancouver for expansion in Canada, though that is farther down the road. Horwell hopes to have 10 mixed-use Nobu developments around the world in the next decade and add five hotels and restaurants per year.

New York is still the dream location for a Nobu-branded mixed-use development, said Horwell, despite an earlier project falling through due to zoning hurdles.

“We want to do New York, without a doubt, but it has to be special,” he said. “If we did a mixed-use, it’d have to be the best, because there’s some great developments there.”

De Niro is hoping to see a Nobu resort in the coming years, citing the Caribbean island of Barbuda as a possibility. “There’s quite a few things in the works,” he said.