Greetings card entrepreneur Andrew Brownsword has been the confirmed as the first beneficiary from the administration of Von Essen Hotels by snapping up four of the beleaguered group's properties.
Brownsword will substantially add to the portfolio of three hotels - Gidleigh Park, the Bath Priory and Sydney House Chelsea - owned by his company, the Bath Priory Ltd, with the acquisition of Lower Slaughter Manor (pictured), Amberley Castle, Buckland Manor and Washbourne Court.
They have been bought off a combined guide price of £32.5m from Ernst & Young, the administrators appointed to Von Essen hotels followings the group's collapse with debts of more than £250m in April.
Brownsword, who also owns the Abode group of six boutique hotels in city centres and now becomes one of the most significant players in the country house hotel market in the UK, intends to introduce his values of originality, personality and quality into his latest acquisitions.
"I am very proud to be the custodian of these four new hotels which will over the next few years be redirected and refurbished to the highest of standards in comfort and hospitality under the Brownsword Hotels umbrella," said Brownsword, who sold his greetings card business in 1994 for £165m. The Sunday Times Rich List put his current wealth at £200m.
Nick Halliday will move from his position as managing director of Abode Hotels to become chief executive of the newly enlarged hotel group.
"I feel honoured by the opportunity to lead and develop this business for the Brownsword family," said Halliday. "I am also fortunate to be able to count on the support and experience of Michael Caines (executive head chef of Gidleigh Park and Bath Priory) and Sue Williams (general manager of Gidleigh Park and Bath Priory) as well as the depth of talent and skill that exists across our estate."
Christie & Co, the company marketing the 26 hotels in the UK and one in France which previously made up the Von Essen portfolio, are believed to shortly announce the completion of the sale of other properties.
By Janet Harmer
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