Overall ranking: 18 (58)
Hoteliers ranking: 3 (16)
Robert Cook – Snapshot
Robert Cook is the chief executive officer of two boutique hotel chains – the nine-strong Malmaison and the seven-strong Hotel du Vin – which are owned by investment property group Marylebone Warwick Balfour (MWB).
MWB and joint partner Rezidor bought the five-strong Malmaison for £77m in 2000, gaining full control of the chain in 2002. It bought the six-strong Hotel du Vin chain from founder Robin Hutson for £66.4m in October 2004, 10 years to the day after its creation.
Cook is also an investor in the Alternative Hotel Group, a joint venture between MWB directors and the Bank of Scotland which owns both Verve Venues and De Vere Group.
Robert Cook – Career guide
Robert Cook was born into a hotelkeeping family and spent his first 18 years living in Room 114 of the Swallow Palace hotel in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire.
After taking a three-year trainee programme with Holiday Inns, Robert Cook served as food and beverage manager at the Balmoral hotel in Edinburgh under Peter Tyrie from 1990. Between 1992 and 1995 he was resident manager at the Forum InterContinental hotel in Glasgow (which became a Moat House) and from 1995 he was resident manager at the Midland hotel in Manchester.
In 1997, he joined the then four-strong Malmaison group as opening general manager for the Newcastle hotel and became regional operations director for the brand. From 2000 he worked with Malmaison founder Ken McCulloch on the Columbus hotel in Monte Carlo and became managing director for McCulloch’s Columbus and Dakota hotel group in the UK.
He rejoined Malmaison in January 2004 and oversaw the acquisition of Hotel du Vin in October 2004.
Robert Cook – What we think
Robert Cook is in the unusual position of presiding over two lifestyle hotel brands – which together form the UK’s largest boutique chain – that were very much the vision of their founders. Both offered affordable style, excelled at doing simple things well, and put an unusual emphasis on providing good restaurants.
His challenge was to unite the two brands while retaining their distinctive identities – Malmaison, in particular, was felt to have lost its way after passing through the hands of a variety of owners after founder Ken McCulloch bowed out in 1999.
Cook has successfully distinguished the two brands by positioning Malmaison as a more contemporary city brand while aiming Hotel du Vin at cathedral towns and cities.
Expansion is now the name of the game after MWB raised £105m in August 2005 to expand the boutique brands to at least 25 properties.
Cook has opened new Malmaisons in Belfast (complete with two rock’n’roll penthouses he designed personally) and Oxford (a conversion of an historic prison) and will add new sites in Liverpool this November and Reading next year. He is also looking for sites in Dublin, London’s West End, Paris and New York.
The development of Hotel du Vin is similarly gathering pace. After adding just one site (in Henley-on-Thames) in 2005, Cook secured no fewer than six new venues in 2006, including Edinburgh’s One Devonshire Gardens for £9m and Carlton Tower hotel in Cheltenham for £5m.
New Hotel du Vins are scheduled to open in York and Cambridge in 2007 and in Edinburgh and Newcastle in 2008 and Cook is seeking more sites in Durham, Chester, Aberdeen and St Andrews.
Cook’s success won him the Manager of the Year Catey in 2006.
The judges commended his passion, his hands-on approach and his attention to service while still maintaining profit growth – the two brands boosted pre-tax profits by 77% to £2.3m in the second half of 2006 on turnover up 15% to £36m.
Cook’s belief in investing in people was also reflected in the fact that his director of people development, Sean Wheeler, scooped an unprecedented two awards in 2006 from the Hotel and Catering Personnel and Training Association.
Robert Cook – Further information
Published by: The Caterer