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The Caterer

Andrew Davis

12 May 2005
Andrew Davis

Overall ranking: 88

Hoteliers ranking: 24

Snapshot

Andrew Davis is the entrepreneur behind Von Essen Hotels, which has built up a collection of 17 three to five-star hotels (including such legendary properties as Cliveden in Berkshire and Sharrow Bay in Cumbria) since its foundation in 1996.

The company, which employs 2,500 staff, more than doubled its operating profit in the year to June 2004 to £13m, while sales doubled to £42.2m.

Career guide

Davis, who is 41, trained as a commercial lawyer specialising in antiques and fine arts. From 1986 to 1992 he worked as legal director and in-house counsel to a major fine art house and was involved in property development, property investment and farming interests.

From 1993, he expanded his property and art trading activities to Monaco, southern France, Spain and the USA. He also founded and operated a small helicopter charter business.

He established Von Essen Hotels and various subsidiaries in 1996.

What we think

Von Essen was founded with aid of a trust fund set up by Davis's Austrian aunt, the Countess Von Essen, and Davis seems to have unlimited funds to drive his ambition to rapidly create a 25-strong group.

The group had three properties (Mount Somerset hotel in Taunton, Congham Hall hotel in Norfolk and New Park Manor hotel in Hampshire) by 2000, when it snapped up Ston Easton Park hotel in Bath and Thornbury Castle hotel in Gloucestershire for around £5m apiece.

Bishopstrow House hotel in Wiltshire followed in 2001. The following year Davis bought the world-famous Cliveden in Taplow, Berkshire, along with the Royal Crescent hotel in Bath, for £50m.

2003 was a bumper year for growth. Von Essen bought Lewtrenchard Manor in Devon, Dalhousie Castle near Edinburgh, and four Cotswolds properties for £16m (Buckland Manor, Lower Slaughter, Washbourne Court and The Elms). The icing on the cake was the acquisition of the legendary Sharrow Bay hotel in Cumbria which was the UK's first country house hotel when it opened in the 1950s.

Last year, Davis added the Greenway hotel in Gloucestershire and Homewood Park hotel in Bath.

It is not surprising, in the light of Davis's ambitions and resources, that Von Essen has been linked to dozens of potential targets. They have included the Lanesborough and Connaught hotels in London, the Lygon Arms in Oxfordshire, Inverlochy Castle in Fort William in Scotland, Studley Prior in Oxfordshire, Gidleigh Park and Buckland-Tout-Saints in Devon.

This year could see Von Essen move into the London market (for which it has earmarked more than £100m) and make its first foray into Continental Europe, where it is believed to be considering potential purchases in France and Italy.

Its decision to increase trade from the domestic European and international business sectors has prompted a £35m refurbishment programme over the next three years, with the focus on upgrading spa and conference facilities.

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