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Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Richard Balfour-Lynn, Marylebone Warwick Balfour

01 July 2011
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Richard Balfour-Lynn, Marylebone Warwick Balfour

Overall ranking: 19 (ranked 19 in 2010)

Hotel ranking: 6 (ranked 6 in 2010)

Richard Balfour-Lynn is the chief executive of property investment group Marylebone Warwick Balfour (MWB), which owns boutique hotel chains Malmaison and Hotel du Vin as well as MWB Business Exchange Plc. He is responsible for the strategic direction of the group and its operating divisions.

Balfour-Lynn is also the chairman and a major shareholder in the Alternative Hotel Group (AHG), which owns the De Vere Group of hotels and stand-alone health and fitness clubs.

Richard Balfour-Lynn - Career guide

Balfour-Lynn, who was educated at the City of London Business School, created Warwick Balfour Properties, a development and investment company, in 1982.

In 1994 he founded MWB, which became a listed company three years later. In 2002 MWB teamed up with Rezidor SAS Hospitality to buy the five-strong Malmaison chain of boutique hotels for £77m, two years before snapping up the six-strong Hotel du Vin group from founders Robin Hutson and Gerard Bassett for £66.4m.

In 2005 Balfour-Lynn and other MWB directors set up the Alternative Hotel Group (AHG) to buy Initial Style Conferences from Rentokil Initial for £325m. A year later AHG snapped up the De Vere Group - encompassing 18 five- and four-star UK hotels, 16 Village Hotels & Leisure Clubs, the Greens health and fitness club chain and distiller and bottler G&J Greenall - for £1.1b.

In December 2010 AHG was rebranded as the De Vere group.

Richard Balfour-Lynn - What we think

Richard Balfour-Lynn is a self-proclaimed "natural interferer", which explains the staggering volume and diversity of his business interests. As well as Malmaison, Hotel du Vin and De Vere, he is head of serviced office provider MWB Business Exchange. Last year saw Balfour Lynn sell and then dispose of all interests in the retail group Liberty for £41.5m, of which he had been chairman.

Balfour-Lynn is also a non-executive director and major shareholder in English Wines, and the Fox & Anchor pub in London's Smithfield. Additionally, in Kent, he farms 400 acres of apple orchards and vineyards, producing and selling his own apple juice and sparkling wine under the brand name Balfour Brut Rosé.

MWB owns and operates 26 Malmaison and Hotel du Vin hotels across the UK. Despite being hit hard by the recession, the hotels are performing better this year than in 2010, a further two hotels are currently under development and there are plans to take the Malmaison brand international as well as roll out the standalone Bistro du Vin concept.

Last year saw MWB dispose of contract caterer Searcy's to a management buyout for an estimated £2m in June after it lost its prestigious contract for the Royal Opera House. The price fell far short of the £20m MWB was thought to have paid for the business back in 2007.

Malmaison was put up for sale in 2007 in the first hotel REIT for an estimated £700m, but the proposition failed as the recession dug in. In March last year Balfour-Lynn successfully completed a £650m debt-for-equity swap with the Bank of Scotland, freeing up funds for further expansion of the hotels in the group.

A trading update in advance of its annual results for the year ended 31 December 2010 found that Ebitda was in line with budget and ahead of 2009. Average room rates increased by 3%, whilst overall occupancy for the year was 77.5% compared to 79.3% for 2009.

The MWB board recently extended the group's accounting date to June to allow for the completion of the documentation regarding an extension to its banking facilities. In May MWB also confirmed speculation that it is "in active discussions with a number of parties" looking at sale and leaseback options on properties to reduce its overall debt levels.

Richard Balfour-Lynn's ranking in the 2010 Caterersearch.com 100 >>

Searcy edges closer to management buy out >>
De Vere Academy gets off to flying start >>

http://www.devere.co.uk/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">
Devere website >>


MWB website >>

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