On Thursday, however, he said through a representative that STAGE is in the process of closing, though Mr. Sorapoj remains committed to the concept and will reopen it elsewhere in Manhattan. No timetable for reopening was offered.
That will leave just six stores open in the United States. When Pace bought the chain in 2014, there were more than 40.
At the time, Mr. Sorapoj said he intended to open hundreds of stores around the world, with some of them acting as anchors for Pace’s luxury real estate and hotel projects. With fanfare, the company signed sponsorship deals, later revoked, with the PGA Tour golf tournament in Fort Worth and the United States Open tennis championship in New York. In 2017, he told the Nikkei Asian Review that he bought Dean & DeLuca not only to fill slots in his real estate holdings, but because the prestige food business was a stable sector — with one caveat.
“As long as you don’t damage the brand,” he said.
But the brand has been damaged, at least in the United States. Dean & DeLuca has pulled out of its high-profile sponsorships, been sued for nonpayment of rent and seems to be sinking under the weight of Pace’s debt.
In 2014, the year Pace acquired Dean & DeLuca, Pace was operating at a net loss of $11 million, according to the company’s filings on the Thai stock exchange. In 2018, the company’s net loss had risen to $158 million. In its last financial statement in March, the company acknowledged “persistent operating losses,” that its liabilities currently exceed its assets, and that the holders of its debt doubt whether Pace will be able to continue operations as a “going concern.”
The cash crisis seems to have begun soon after Mahanakhon tower opened, in 2017. That year, Mr. Sorapoj sold part of his stake in the tower for about $450 million to the wealthy King Power group. (The tower was subsequently renamed “King Power Mahanakhon.”)
For a time, Pace poured more money into refinishing the existing United States stores and launching STAGE. The prestigious German architect Ole Scheeren was brought on to design the sleek meatpacking district cafe, which cost millions to open. (Pace declined to give an exact figure, but the rent alone, according to sources in the real estate industry, is most likely over $250,000 per month.)