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Branson unloads Le Manoir stake

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Entrepreneur Richard Branson has officially confirmed that he has sold his majority stake in Raymond Blanc’s country house hotel, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, to Orient-Express Hotels.

He has also sold his 63-bedroom La Residencia hotel in Majorca, a hotel to which he was particularly attached and where he often holidayed himself.

Orient-Express bought the hotels in a deal worth £27.5m. Included in the price was Branson’s equity stake in Blanc’s four Le Petit Blanc brasseries in Oxford, Cheltenham, Birmingham and Manchester.

In December it was reported that Virgin, Branson’s company, was looking to sell Le Manoir to Orient-Express. Virgin at that time denied the rumours. The deal now done means that Branson no longer owns any hotels in the UK, or indeed anywhere in the world.

Three years ago Virgin sold seven hotels that it owned in the UK and regrouped its remaining hotels under a new company named Limited Edition by Virgin. The 32-bedroom Le Manoir, in Great Milton, Oxfordshire, was the only UK hotel in the collection.

Blanc, the French chef who earned two Michelin stars for its restaurant, is retaining a stake in the business and will continue to run it as chairman.

Michael Herriot, managing director of Limited Edition by Virgin, said that he was sad the Le Manoir deal had happened. He said: “I am always sad when something grows up and moves on.”

He added that the company had sold its stake in the property because “it was looking to the future”.

It is understood that Branson, who was not available for comment, will invest the money in luxury resorts.

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