Overall ranking: 31 (new entry)
Hoteliers ranking: 8
Richard Balfour-Lynn – Snapshot
Richard Balfour-Lynn heads up two companies that have become significant players on the UK hotel landscape.
He is the chief executive and founding shareholding of property investment group Marylebone Warwick Balfour Group (MWB), which owns two of our leading boutique hotel chains in Malmaison and Hotel du Vin, which number nine hotels per brand.
MWB other interests include the Liberty store in London’s Regent Street and MWB Business Exchange, the UK’s second-largest serviced office provider.
Balfour-Lynn is also the chairman and a major shareholder in the Alternative Hotel Group (AHG) which owns Verve Venues (the UK’s largest operator of residential conference and training centres,) and the De Vere Group of hotels, standalone health and fitness clubs, and distiller G&J Greenall.
Richard Balfour-Lynn – Career guide
Richard Balfour-Lynn, who is 53, was educated at the City of London Business School.
After creating Warwick Balfour Properties, a development and investment company, in 1982, Balfour-Lynn co-founded MWB in 1994 and reversed it into a listed company in 1997.
In November 2002, MWB teamed up with Rezidor SAS Hospitality to buy the five-strong Malmaison chain of boutique hotels for £77m, buying back Rezidor’s share in 2002. Two years later, in October 2004, MWB bought the six-strong Hotel du Vin group from founders Robin Hutson and Gerard Bassett for £66.4m.
Balfour-Lynn and other MWB directors then set up AHG in partnership with the Bank of Scotland to buy Initial Style Conferences from Rentokil Initial in December 2005 for £325m. AHG snapped up the De Vere Group in July 2006 for £1.1b.
Richard Balfour-Lynn – What we think
Balfour-Lynn’s future course was signalled in 1998 when MWB bought a former hospital in London’s Charterhouse Square as the first of a planned four-star line of boutique hotels (it eventually become the first London Malmaison in late 2003).
For a while, MWB focused on building and leasing hotels to major operators before selling them on for a tidy profit. These included the Sofitel hotel in Pall Mall, the Radisson Glasgow hotel, the London Marriott Hotel Park lane and the Marriott West India Quay. MWB bought London’s Howard hotel for £40m and sold it on for £75m.
It finally became an owner and operator in November 2000 with the acquisition of Malmaison, which was joined two years later by Hotel du Vin. Both brands have prospered and grown under the able leadership of chief executive Robert Cook.
The next purchases were made during the past year through AHG. First came the 29-strong Initial Style Conferences, which Balfour-Lynn has renamed Verve Venues.
He plans to expand their appeal to the leisure market by upgrading the portfolio to three- and four-star quality and to roll out a subsidiary brand – Verve City – of non-residential daytime city venues. Balfour-Lynn will also exploit under-utilised grounds by building exclusive training facilities for clients, such as the new BMW centre in Berkshire.
De Vere proved more of a challenge as a phoney bidding war with Travelodge owner Permira forced AHG to submit three offers before securing the prize.
The group of mostly owned properties includes 18 De Vere hotels (a largely provincial chain of four- to five-star hotels including 13 golf courses and 155 five-star timeshare units), 16 mid-market Village hotels and leisure clubs, and 15 leased standalone health clubs.
Balfour-Lynn plans to split De Vere into separate ownership and operating companies and forge synergies with Verve (which he intends to run more like a hotel chain). It is likely that some Verve sites with large leisure and golfing facilities will convert to De Veres.
He plans to build the chain to 40 or 50 hotels and has indicated he will be buying more hotel groups.
Balfour-Lynn is also a non-executive director and major shareholder in English Wines, has property development and corporate interests in South Africa, and holds a major shareholding in Vision, the UK’s largest hotel asset management company with £3b-worth of property currently under management.
He also owns several apple orchards and vineyard in Kent which supply Tesco and plans to market his sparkling wines, which won the UK Vintners Award last year.
Richard Balfour-Lynn – Further information