In 1956, when President Sukarno nationalised the country's private businesses, the Zecha family fled to Singapore. At the time the 23-year-old Zecha was in New York, working at Time magazine. In 1961, Zecha launched Asia Magazine, the first regional newspaper colour supplement in Asia. When the magazine faltered a year later, Rupert Murdoch was persuaded by Zecha to invest in the magazine (in what was his first Asian investment). The magazine was a part of English speaking families until 1998. It was held above water for its last ten years by Mr.Giro Semba and Mr. Olav Mueller-Uri until it finally closed in 1998. Olav Mueller-Uri is the person responsible for getting Air France back into Vietnam.
In 1970, Adrian started a new travel and lifestyle magazine named Orientations based in Hong Kong. With the advent of in-flight magazines, Orientations dropped its travel content and progressed over the years to become a publication focused on the arts of East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Himalayas. It is now the leading magazine in this field and its contributors are renowned scholars and researchers from around the world.
Zecha's first experience of the hotel business was when a friend asked him to help the Marriott Hotel chain broker land deals in Asia. This experience led to Zecha joining with Robert Burns and Georg Rafael in 1972 to found Regent International Hotels, which was one of Asia's first luxury hotel groups. The trio built 12 hotels before in 1986 Zecha sold his 30% stake for $30 million. He then moved into real estate speculation, forming an investment fund that, among other deals, bought Bangkok's Regent Hotel and London's Dorchester Hotel before eventually on selling them.
While in Phuket looking for a site upon which to build a holiday home, Zecha was walking along Pansea Beach when he came across a coconut plantation which occupied a prime location. Plans to build a home on a site soon developed into an idea to build a small boutique resort in partnership with longtime friend Anil Thadani. The two spent mainly their own money as no banks would lend for the project due to the small number of planned rooms, instead of the 500-room hotel they thought would be more practical.
Amanpuri opened in January 1988 at a cost of US$4 million with only 40 rooms. Its success, followed by that of Amandari in Bali, confirmed to Zecha the viability of a chain of minimalist boutique resorts in remote, natural settings. Each resort in the chain has been unique, with no more than 50 rooms. Initially concentrated in South East Asia, the chain has expanded to the United States, Morocco and Sri Lanka.
In 1992, needing additional money to fund expansion, he sold a controlling interest in Silverlink, the holding company which owned Aman Resorts to Clement Vaturi, an old friend whose family owned the Hoteliere Immobliere chain of French hotels. Zecha was left with only 45% of the share holdings. The arrangement was satisfactory to both parties until, in a convoluted series of financial events, Vaturi's controlling interest effectively came under the control of Los Angeles-based Colony Capital, a real estate investment fund. A lawsuit between Vaturi and Colony Capital promised to drag on, putting on hold indefinitely Zecha's own plans to expand the number of Aman resorts. Dispirited and by now owning only 45% of Silverlink's shares he resigned from his position at Aman Resorts in 1998.
By 2000 Colony Capital and Vaturi had settled their lawsuit, which led to Vaturi getting his Silverlink shares back. He soon onsold his shares to Lee Hing Development, a Hong Kong property fund which was affiliated with Thadani's Schroder Capital Partners (a Singapore-based fund). With investors in control whom he felt shared his vision, Zecha returned as chairman and CEO.
In the intervening period Zecha founded Maha Resorts, which opened its Hacineda de San Antonia in Mexico in October 2000.
In 2007, Zecha announced that he had reached an agreement with DLF Ltd, India's largest real estate company, to form a partnership to acquire a controlling interest in Aman Resorts for US$250 million. DLF Group sold the company in 2013 to a joint venture between Russian real estate investor Vladislav Doronin and American entrepreneur Omar Amanat for US$358 million. Controversy ensued when Doronin announced that Zecha was stepping down as CEO and that he would assume the position. A London High Court injunction against Doronin by Mrs Justice Rose sitting in the High Court in London upheld the decision made whereby Amanresorts International Pte. Ltd. is incorporated, reinstated Zecha as CEO, alleging that Doronin did not have board approval to remove him.
In addition to his position at Aman Resorts, Zecha is also chairman and director of General Hotel Management Ltd (GHM), a developer and manager of luxury hotels and resorts.
Zecha was also a partner with Georg Rafael in Rafael Hotels Limited, a company that was sold to Mandarin Oriental Group in May 2000.
In 2005 Adrian Zecha was awarded the Innovation Award at the 16th annual Hotel Investment Conference Asia Pacific (HICAP).
Frederick, J. "The Kingdom of the Divine." Time.com, 19 July 2004.
- Hilditch, Tom. "Paradise Regained." Asiaweek.com, 15 June 2001.
- Miller, S. "Be My Guest, Please." Condé Nast Traveller, Dec. 2007, p. 125.
- Kan, W. "'My Resorts Are Not Otherworldly.'" Time.com, 21 March 2001.
- "London Court Rules Doronin Must Step Down as Amanresorts CEO" Wall Street Journal, 14 July 2014.
- Team page, GHM Hotels
- "Robert Burns, Georg Rafael and Adrian Zecha to be Honored at the Upcoming 16th Annual Hotel Investment Conference Asia Pacific". Press release, hotel-online.com, 14 June 2006.