Woodlark Employees Lose Jobs and Are Invited to Reapply After Management Change

Workers will be rehired based on “anticipated business levels.”

Outside the Woodlark. (Michael Raines)

Employees at the Woodlark Hotel in Portland’s West End are being terminated and invited to reapply for their positions—if they still exist—as a new management company takes over from SoHi Brands, known, until recently, as Sortis Holdings.

Azul Hospitality Group, based in San Diego, will run the Woodlark starting in mid July. Workers will be rehired based on projections for future occupancy, Azul executives said in an email to WW.

“As the new incoming operator, the Azul transitions team is currently evaluating upcoming occupancy projections and will rehire associates to support anticipated business levels,” Azul senior vice president Stan Kaminski wrote in the email. “The hotel ownership group and Azul are committed to being good partners to the local community.”

The change is sowing confusion among employees, said a person who works at the Woodlark, who declined to be named. Supervisors have said that “no one is getting laid off,” the employee said. At the same time, Azul plans to post all the Woodlark’s positions online next week and welcomed current employees to apply for the ones that still exist.

Neither SoHi nor Azul would take responsibility for the mass layoff. In his email, Kaminski said that as part of the transition, “associates are terminated by the existing operator.”

SoHi said that wasn’t the case.

“It was 100% Azul’s choice to layoff the employees and ask them to reapply,” a SoHi spokesman said. “SoHi was not part of the employee communications and did not lay anyone off. This situation is extremely common in the hospitality industry when one management group transitions out and other comes in. Everyone has been paid in full. It’s now Azul’s operation.”

Rooms at the Woodlark start at $172 a night on the hotel’s website.

SoHi owns the nearby Ace Hotel, once the emblem of Portland’s hipster efflorescence. It was recently rebranded as The Clyde, the name the hotel had when it opened in 1912.

SoHi expanded during the pandemic, buying up restaurant and coffee chains hard hit by lockdowns, including Bamboo Sushi, Water Avenue Coffee and Sizzle Pie. Founded by real estate scion Paul Brenneke as Sortis Holdings, SoHi has been struggling since, with shops missing rent payments and vendors suing for overdue cash.

SoHi is one of many marquee Portland firms that have been involved with the Woodlark. It was developed by Provenance Hotels, the firm founded by Gordon Sondland, who went on to become President Donald Trump’s ambassador to the European Union.

Provenance sold a majority stake in the Woodlark to an entity controlled by NBP Capital in 2014. NBP bought the rest in 2022, according to a press release. NBP Capital didn’t return an email seeking comment.

NBP Capital is run by Lauren Noecker. She founded the company with her brother, Spencer, who left to pursue a cannabis business. NBP is funded in large part by Nicolas Berggruen, a German American billionaire who once sold everything he owned except a small bag of clothes, his BlackBerry, and a Gulfstream IV jet that used to roam the world looking for deals, including an ethanol plant in Oregon.

NBP also owns the old Multnomah County Courthouse, where a company called PuroClean Restoration Services recently repaired water damage, then sued, claiming that NBP owes it $6.3 million in unpaid invoices for the work.

Water damage is the latest setback for the old courthouse. According to county records, the property at 1021 SW 4th Ave. has a market value of $14 million, half of what NBP paid for it in 2018. NBP hasn’t pulled a permit for work on the building since 2022, county records show.

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