Hotel’s flood of money


A billionaire guest has been caught up in a flooding incident believed to have caused about $25,000 of damage at one of Queenstown’s swankiest hotels.

Police and the fire service were called to the five-star Sofitel in Duke Street last Saturday morning when a fire sprinkler was set off in a room.

An estimated 10,000 litres of water was unleashed – about the same amount held by a fuel tanker.
Queenstown fire chief Bob Robertson says the hotel was evacuated as flooding spread to adjoining rooms and poured into accommodation on a floor below.

“It would appear that someone had set off a wall-mounted sprinkler by trying to dry some clothes after putting them on a hanger and then hanging them from the sprinkler,” Robertson says.

“A lot of water had seeped out into the corridors and travelled to the floor underneath but the guest who had the room wasn’t around when we arrived.”

Mountain Scene understands the room was booked by mega-wealthy United States businessman John Paul DeJoria – a friend of Hollywood movie superstars such as Adam Sandler, Sean Penn and Dan Ackroyd.

DeJoria, 65, is famous as a former homeless person now worth about $US4 billion from his string of businesses, including global haircare giants John Paul Mitchell Systems.

Sofitel boss Wouter de Graaf couldn’t be contacted by Mountain Scene for comment.

However, a hotel source confirms DeJoria had been staying there but “checked out a couple of days ago”.
Queenstown police say they were called to the Sofitel at about 7am on January 2.

“Apparently, some 10,000 litres of water was discharged inside the building and a coat hanger was found dangling from a sprinkler in a room,” local constable Sean Drader says.

“Damages are thought to be in the region of $25,000.”

Drader adds: “It’s thought the person responsible has been identified but no charges have been laid at present.”

On Saturday, passers-by were stunned to see expensive furniture and fittings stacked up outside the Sofitel’s rear entrance in Man Street.

“There were mattresses, bedding and curtains out drying and a lot of balcony doors were lying open,” one onlooker said.