The empty Watergate hotel, part of the Washington complex that symbolised President Richard Nixon’s downfall and established a catch-phrase for every political scandal since, will today be auctioned to the highest bidder.

Nixon quit in 1974 after revelations he covered up a dirty tricks campaign that included a burglary at the Democratic party’s Watergate headquarters. The burglars stayed at the hotel the night before the break-in.

The 251-room landmark fell on hard times and closed in 2007 pending a proposal by the current owners, Monument Realty, to restore it to its former luxury after buying the property for $45m (€32m, £28m). The building was repossessed after the owners defaulted on a bank loan during lean times for the commercial property market.

Financial Times