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The Caterer

Beverly King

12 May 2005
Beverly King

Overall ranking: 61

Hoteliers ranking: 17

Snapshot

Beverly King is the chief operating officer of Thistle Hotels which operates 50 hotels, of which 31 are managed and the rest owned or leased.

Thistle has an annual turnover in excess of £300m and is the UK's sixth largest hotel group by bedroom numbers and the biggest player in London.

It dates back to Mount Charlotte Hotels of the 1960s and gained its current identity after Mount Charlotte bought 34 Thistle hotels and the Thistle name from Scottish & Newcastle in 1989.

Career guide

King was born in 1966 and gained early experience in his family's hotels before he joined Trusthouse Forte as a post-graduate management trainee. He worked at the Kensington Close, Cavendish and Strand Palace hotels in London, before joining the Cumberland in 1993 to become deputy general manager.

From 1996 he worked in Portugal in deputy and general manager roles at the Le Méridien Penina and the Le Méridien Dona Filipa and San Lorenzo golf course. In 1998, King set up a new division for hotels and commercial restaurants at contract caterer Gardner Merchant, but returned to the Cumberland in 1999 as general manager.

King joined Thistle in 2002 as area general manager for its Selfridge, Marble Arch, Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park hotels in London. He was promoted to his present role in February 2004.

What we think

King was promoted to the top spot at Thistle Hotels after BIL, the group's majority shareholder since 1990, launched a successful hostile takeover bid to take the company private again and (not for the first time) ousted its former management team.

Believing Thistle had underperformed since it floated on the London stock market in 1996, BIL launched a £554.7m bid in March 2004. Thistle fought the bid but shareholders accepted an improved offer of £627m in May.

The upheaval followed a turbulent period in which the sale-and-leaseback of 37 hotels to Jersey-based investment firm Orb Estates degenerated into a series of legal wrangles over payments and the spectre of a bid from Orb.

Since the takeover, Thistle has shifted power from the centre to the general managers, abandoned its "one-size-fits-all" approach, and sold or put up for sale nine non-core hotels.

It is upgrading and modernising its offer to regain the more upscale position it held a decade ago. "We want to be in the four- to five-star sector instead of the three-and-a-half to four-and-a-half star range where we are," chairman Arun Amarsi explained in 2004.

The flagship of this drive was the 1,019-bedroom Cumberland hotel at Marble Arch, which was relaunched in October 2004 after a £59m revamp. The hotel introduced the group's new, global deluxe brand, Guoman, which means "international gateway" in Mandarin.

The Guoman name will be used on a line of upscale, international hotels in major cities that could, in the long-term, take the group overseas for the first time. The Royal Horseguards, the Tower Thistle and the Thistles at Victoria, Charing Cross are all earmarked for conversion to the new format.

Thistle also forged sales and marketing alliances last year with the US-based Affinia hotel group, the Scandinavian First Hotels Group, NH Hoteles of Spain and Meritus of Singapore.

This spring, celebrity chef Gary Rhodes took over the brasserie and fine dining at the Cumberland in conjunction with Compass division the Restaurant Association.

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