Sue Williams, one of the UK’s most experienced country house hotel general managers, is leaving Cliveden House to head up Whatley Manor hotel and spa, near Malmesbury, Wiltshire.
She will replace Gurval Durand, who departed suddenly from his role as general manager of the five-red-AA-star, 23-bedroom hotel in May.
Having spent four years at the helm of the five-red-AA-star, 41-bedroom Cliveden hotel, in Taplow, Berkshire, overseeing the refurbishment of the property, Williams had not been looking to move. However, she has decided to accept the opportunity at Whatley Manor as it is located 10 minutes from her home and will allow for a better work/life balance. Williams’ current role requires her to spend at least five nights away from home.
Andrew Stembridge, managing director of Cliveden and sister property Chewton Glen in New Milton, Hampshire, said Williams had done an incredible job at Cliveden, having joined the hotel in 2012 five months after its 77-year lease was acquired out of the Von Essen administration for nearly £30m by London & Regional Properties.
The Grade I-listed Cliveden, whose freehold is owned by the National Trust, suffered from a lack of investment during Von Essen’s ownership and was in need of a major transformation.
“Our goal has always been to put Cliveden back on the map and Sue has been very instrumental in helping us do so. Winning AA Hotel of the Year [for England] 2015 was a milestone that illustrated the speed at which we have been able to re-establish Cliveden as one of the most serious players outside London,” said Stembridge.
“Having completed the final phase of bedrooms, meeting rooms and opened the new Astor Grill in April, the Cliveden project is now three-quarters complete and we are very much looking forward to starting the new spa in September, which is the final piece of the jigsaw.”
Williams described her time at Cliveden as a once in a career opportunity. “The role has been so diverse and I have learnt so much about restoration and conservation and all the nuances that have to be observed along the way. Quite a unique position in our industry, the heritage of the house and its rich history has been a complete revelation,” she said.
“Whilst I am of course very sad to be moving on, I know that I leave the house in great shape for its next lucky incumbent. We have assembled a great team and they have helped us establish a wonderful service culture that makes me extremely proud.”
Stembridge added that he would now be looking to find a person as equally talented as Williams to assist in completing the final phase of refurbishment and ensure that Cliveden reaches its full potential.
Williams will move to Whatley Manor, which like Cliveden, is a member of the Relais & Châteaux consortium. Set within 12 acres of gardens, Whatley Manor is owned by Swiss equestrian rider Christian Landolt and his mother Alix. It boasts a two-Michelin-starred restaurant overseen by Martin Burge, as well as the informal brasserie Le Mazot, the Aquarias Spa and a 40-seat cinema.
Whatley Manor’s owner, Christian Landolt said: “The team and I are looking forward to welcoming Sue Williams as general manager at Whatley Manor. It feels like a natural pairing especially with Sue’s extensive experience in the Relais & Châteaux five-star country house sector. No doubt Sue will settle in very quickly especially as she already knows the locality having lived just 10 minutes from here for a number of years.”
Prior to joining Cliveden, Williams was general manager at Bath Priory, owned by Andrew Brownsword Hotels, for 10 years, during which time she also ran Gidleigh Park in Devon and Lower Slaughter Manor in the Cotswolds.
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