In 2012 Cas de Stoppelaar sold the Summit Hotel in Kathmandu. The hotel that opened its doors 35 years ago has become the favourite address for tourists, expats and development workers. As for De Stoppelaar: “ The hotel shaped my life and gave it colour”.
The 22-year-old Leiden University biology student first went to Nepal in 1970. “In the 1970s Kathmandu was just a village. There were hardly any cars and roads and in some of the mountain valleys we walked through they had never seen Westerners.” Nepal got under his skin so he stayed and started organising treks for tourists in the Himalayas. In 1978, he and a group of friends were given the chance to buy a piece of land and built the hotel.
“It was not a well-thought out investment,” said De Stoppelar, now 68, looking back with a smile. “We really just wanted a good place to stay in Kathmandu. I was the biologist, the others a doctor, an engineer and a lawyer. We didn’t know anything about running a hotel. And none of us thought about the day we might want to selland what that would involve.”
That day came 35 years later. In the meantime, Summit had grown into a fully-fledged boutique hotel with 73 rooms. The few hundred thousand (guilders) they invested had become a few million euros. “Since none of the other shareholders or my children wanted to take over the hotel, I decided it was time to sell”.
A buyer was soon found – thanks to his extensive network in Nepal – and the price was quickly agreed. But then the sale hit difficulties. “That was mostly our fault. 35 years ago, our paperwork on the purchase of the land and construction costs was rather slapdash. And we hadn’t taken into account regulations about foreign investments. That caused endless questions from a number of government offices, who, by the way, didn’t want to see us leave. Logical. Nepal is trying to attract foreign investors.”
At last everything was sorted and the deal went through. In 2012, the purchase price was transferred to the Dutch bank. “If we had been more professional when we started out it wouldn’t have been so difficult. We could have done with One to Watch then. Willem Grimminck and his team know all the legal ins and outs when it comes to investing in Nepal - as today’s investors know full well - and it would have made our “exit” much easier. But, of course, they weren’t around 35 years ago.
Because of his years of involvement in Nepal, Cas de Stoppelaar is currently Honorary Consul General of Nepal in the Netherlands. He is also author of the novel “Elephant Polo”(Olifantenpolo) based on the adventurous early days of the Summit Hotel.