Charles Prew, chief executive of the beleagured Von Essen group, is embarking on a tour of its 28 hotels to reassure staff of each business’s future, despite the group being in administration and Hunstrete House going into liquidation.
“It is important that that I speak to as many of the team as possible to address any concerns and issues they have about the future,” he said. “I want them to know that I am here to help and support them in moving each individual hotel forward.”
Prew said he was not aware that Von Essen was in any financial difficulties when he was appointed to his role as chief executive in early March, primarily to expand the company, founded by Andrew Davis, to around 75 hotels.
“The administration came as a surprise to me,” said Prew.
He now reports to David Duggins, who was appointed by the administrators Ernst & Young to take over from Davis, after it was revealed that the company failed to make interest payments on its £250m debt, and breached a covenant.
Prew’s key role will now be to enhance the value of the hotels, which include Sharrow Bay in the Lake District and Cliveden in Buckinghamshire, in preparation for their possible sale.
“As far as the staff are concerned, the only major change since the administration is that Andrew Davis is no longer at the helm. I am doing everything I can to support the staff in doing what they do best, which is to look after our customers,” he said.
Business at the 27 hotels across the UK and one in France has been boosted in recent weeks by the good weather, with occupancy rising, year-on-year, from 81% to 85% over the recent May Day bank holiday weekend.
Prew is also reassuring guests and customers that it is business as usual at each hotel, particularly couples who have weddings booked at Von Essen in the coming months.
With cashflow now less of a pressure since the announcement of the administration, Prew confirmed that suppliers are being contacted regarding the payment of arrears.
By Janet Harmer
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