Inside the high-powered war at ‘Australia’s most luxurious hotel’


The Palazzo Versace luxury hotel styles itself as Australia’s most luxurious digs – one of just a handful of six-star hotels in the country. 

But behind the scenes, the hotel famous for hosting everyone from Johnny Depp to Snoop Dog and Tammy Hembrow, a drawn-out war is being waged between the owner, management and residents. 

The outgoing general manager, Jane Kingston, described the goings on as ‘utterly disgraceful’. 

Jane Kingston, who was appointed in January 2020 is the latest GM to resign, following four others who have quit the role since 2014.

‘Never in my life have I experienced such venomous and vociferous attacks from other human beings, where you just stop and think, “Is this for real?”‘ Ms Kingston told Daily Mail Australia.

‘Anybody else who wasn’t strong would have gone and committed suicide, that’s how bad the attacks [on me] were. It’s disgraceful.’

The Palazzo Versace on the Gold Coast was the first fashion-branded hotel in the world

The Palazzo Versace on the Gold Coast was the first fashion-branded hotel in the world

Jane Kingston had resigned as General Manager after 'disgraceful' attacks by residents

Jane Kingston had resigned as General Manager after ‘disgraceful’ attacks by residents

The property has a dual personality as a hotel-resort and a home for condominium owners

The property has a dual personality as a hotel-resort and a home for condominium owners

Recent visitors and guests had criticised the hotel for a not being as glamorous as it projects

Recent visitors and guests had criticised the hotel for a not being as glamorous as it projects

Ms Kingston said her reason for leaving is to take up a new job opportunity in Sydney, but her experience with the wealthy, high-powered residents of the resort’s condominiums helped make the decision easier.

Palazzo Versace comprises 200 five-star hotel rooms but also more than 70 condominiums. Billionaire Clive Palmer once owned one of the condos, while recruitment company queen Sarina Russo is another owner. 

Gold Coast real estate agency Kollosche sold a three-bedroom ground floor penthouse in the establishment for $6.42 million to an interstate buyer in January this year.   

‘They may be quite high-powered, but from my dealings with them, the way they’ve gone about things is quite childish and could have been handled a lot more delicately and more intelligently,’ Ms Kingston said.  

The resort's expensive-looking grounds are favoured by influencers such as Tammy Hembrow

The resort’s expensive-looking grounds are favoured by influencers such as Tammy Hembrow

Snoop Dogg leaves the fruit platter looking pristine during his stay at Palazzo Versace

Snoop Dogg leaves the fruit platter looking pristine during his stay at Palazzo Versace

A number of issues between residents and the owner have plagued the hotel-resort since it was bought by China’s Zou family through its Dong Run Group from local developers Sunland Group in 2012.

Disputes about ‘excessive’ management fees charged by the Palazzo Versace owner for everything from pool maintenance to security and insurance has created bad blood with residents, with Ms Kingston caught in the middle.

‘Condo owners are not happy with the level of service,’ one owner told the Gold Coast Bulletin in January. ‘What they are trying to do is make the hotel accountable in terms of its maintenance.’

But Ms Kingston said the owners’ constant complaints went beyond management fees to include accusations of theft by staff members and a desire to install their own security arrangements separate to those of the hotel. 

‘I got this terrible email from one of the residents accusing the staff of stealing, and then they all got on the bandwagon and had their two cents worth,’ Ms Kingston said. ‘That made me irate and I sent them back a whopper saying their behaviour was disgraceful.

‘The truth is, each resident pays $12,000 a month for security of the apartments, for postal and package deliveries to their residences, plus emergency health response 24/7,’ she continued. ‘Who else is going to give them that kind of service? Are they nuts?

‘They want to pay $500,000 for a separate security service and that will impact each shareholder who is a condo resident. That is not business thinking.’  

One TripAdvisor review from 2020 described the pool as like 'swimming in Parramatta River'

One TripAdvisor review from 2020 described the pool as like ‘swimming in Parramatta River’

Palazzo Versace offers more than 200 hotel suites and more than 72 resident condominiums

Palazzo Versace offers more than 200 hotel suites and more than 72 resident condominiums

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 the hotel shut and stood down 200 staff

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 the hotel shut and stood down 200 staff

Ms Kingston said the hotel should not rely on the Versace name, which the owners licence

Ms Kingston said the hotel should not rely on the Versace name, which the owners licence

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard took to the Palazzo after the famous Pistol and Boo episode

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard took to the Palazzo after the famous Pistol and Boo episode

‘There are different personalities in there with an agenda and it’s definitely prejudicial towards the Chinese owners,’ claimed Ms Kingston. ‘I’ve seen that through the content of emails to me and what has been said to me.’ 

Ms Kingston said the residents were far from a ‘united front’.

‘A lot of them are not talking to one another,’ she said. ‘It’s gross bullying from a gang of ogres … still to this day, I don’t know what they want. 

‘There’s a gang of about six to 10 who have their own agenda. They wanted the hotel put into liquidation so they could take it over and make sure the current owner lost everything, but they’re having a hard time at the moment. 

‘I was the roadblock, which is why I suffered all the attacks.’    

Problems have beset the establishment – the first Versace-branded hotel in the world when it opened in 2000 – since it was sold to Dong Run for $68.5 million, who run it through Nanbai Australia.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year the hotel shut its doors and stood down 200 staff, while also telling them leave entitlements could not be paid. Many later went on JobKeeper until the hotel reopened.

The hotel had now had five general managers in the period between 2014 and 2021

The hotel had now had five general managers in the period between 2014 and 2021 

The famous Versace logo drew a wealthy, fashion-conscious clientele when the hotel opened

The famous Versace logo drew a wealthy, fashion-conscious clientele when the hotel opened

Earlier this year, a series of damning TripAdvisor reviews of the establishment were highlighted by Daily Mail Australia, echoing a regular complaint by visitors, guests and travel industry specialists that Palazzo Versace’s original ‘six-star’ status was no longer justified because upkeep, maintenance and renovation of its facilities had fallen behind. 

‘Whilst we were trying to enjoy our food, a bird excreted faeces above us which went straight through the top of our cabana and all over ourselves and our food,’ wrote on reviewer. 

One reviewer said using the hotel pool was ‘like swimming in the Parramatta River’, partly because a family of ducks had taken over and left droppings. 

‘There was no water in the lagoon pool which was meant to be part of the “amazing view”. We couldn’t use the bath because of the filth that came out of the jets. There were marks on the wall that looked like someone had smeared something on them,’ wrote another. 

Kyle Sandilands and former partner Imogen Anthony pictured at the troubled hotel

Kyle Sandilands and former partner Imogen Anthony pictured at the troubled hotel

Ms Kingston defended her record by noting the hotel had just ‘the biggest April’ ever in terms of room occupancy, and she also had advice for whoever next steps up to the difficult GM role. 

‘First, you need to work very closely with the owners,’ she said. ‘There is a special relationship that you must have with a foreign owner, it goes without saying. 

‘It’s quite tightly managed and if you don’t like that, then you’re not going to survive. I almost had to get approval to go to the bathroom.

‘Second, you’re not going to survive if you think you’re going to ride on the coat-tails of [the] Versace name. You really do have to be a very good business operator as well.’

Daily Mail Australia sought comment from a number of condominium residents but none replied. 

Criticism of the resort's Chinese owners claim not enough money has been spent on its upkeep

Criticism of the resort’s Chinese owners claim not enough money has been spent on its upkeep



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Written by bourbiza

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