Episode 802: The Hotel at the Center of the World : Planet Money A Chinese company pays millions of dollars for a failing hotel in a small, rural town. We follow the trail of money, and it explains the world economy.

Episode 802: The Hotel at the Center of the World

Marcie LaCerte/NPR
Lawyers for HNA Group arrived in Kerhonkson, New York to buy a local hotel.
Marcie LaCerte/NPR

Two years ago, one of the biggest companies in the world bought a failing hotel in a tiny rural hamlet in upstate New York. That made Planet Money reporter Noel King, curious. She grew up in the town and worked at the hotel as a teenager. Why, she wondered, would a multi-billion-dollar Chinese company invest in her hometown?

The HNA Group, the company that bought the hotel, started as a small airline in southern China. Today, it employs hundreds of thousands of people, and takes in billions of dollars of revenue. In the past three years, HNA has spent billions buying stakes in Hilton Hotels and Deutsche Bank. They own property on Park Avenue and eight golf courses in Washington State. They own the Radisson hotels, all of them.

What's behind HNA's buying spree? Why on earth did the company pay $13.8 million for the Hudson Valley Resort and Spa? And when are they going to fix it up?

The answers to these questions lead to us back to China, where government policies encouraged companies to look beyond mainland China and find their fortune in some places you wouldn't expect, including in a tiny New York mountain town.

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