Bauer gets back into hotels

01 January 2000
Bauer gets back into hotels

Granada's £90m sale of the two Westbury hotels to property group Chelsfield last week marks the return of Willy Bauer to the hotel business after an absence of more than seven years.

The properties, with 244 bedrooms in London and 228 in New York, fall under Mr Bauer's control as chief executive of Wentworth Group Holdings, a direct subsidiary of Chelsfield.

Mr Bauer became a well-known figure in the industry during spells as general manager of the Savoy hotel between 1982 and 1989 and previously with Forte, where he ran the Hyde Park and the Grosvenor House hotels.

He told Caterer he was thrilled to return to hotels: "We waited a long time but we are there now. We have fantastic opportunities."

Chelsfield has as yet no fixed plans for the properties, but it is unlikely to shed the Westbury name. The brand could even be extended by the addition of similar properties, particularly in continental Europe.

The hotels need significant refurbishment and Chelsfield also plans to invest heavily to exploit the retail opportunities at both sites.

It believes the Bond Street and Madison Avenue locations of its new hotels mean that parts of the properties could be profitably converted to retail use. Conversion would cost around £15m between the two sites, but the development could generate up to £2m a year in rent for the London hotel alone.

Mr Bauer has moved swiftly to appoint James Brown, formerly of the Compleat Angler Hotel in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, as general manager in London. It is hoped Phillip Wood will stay on in the equivalent post in New York.

Wentworth is also investing in its existing leisure interests. The Wentworth Golf Club at Virginia Water in Surrey is in the early stages of building a £6.5m tennis and fitness centre. And the Vanderbilt Racquet Club in Shepherd's Bush, west London, is to be completely rebuilt to offer a full range of health and leisure facilities.

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