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Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Robert Cook, Malmaison and Hotel du Vin

01 July 2011
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Robert Cook, Malmaison and Hotel du Vin

Overall ranking: 29 (ranked 26 in 2010)

Hotel ranking: 8 (ranked 7 in 2010)

Robert Cook - Snapshot

Chief executive of Malmaison and Hotel du Vin, Robert Cook, has been involved with the group since the latter's acquisition in 2004 by parent company, property investment group, Marylebone Warwick Balfour (MWB). He has since been instrumental in both brands' development as well as the introduction of two new models, Pub du Vin and stand alone Bistro du Vin.

Cook is also an investor in the De Vere Group (formerly the Alternative Hotel Group), a joint venture between MWB directors and the Bank of Scotland, which owns the De Vere Group of hotels, resorts and conference venues.

Robert Cook - Career guide

Robert Cook comes from hotelier stock and spent his first 18 years living in room 114 of the Swallow Palace hotel in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire. He graduated from Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen and, in 2007, was honoured with an honorary doctorate in recognition of his contribution to the hotel industry.

After taking a three-year trainee programme with Holiday Inn, Cook served as food and beverage manager at the Balmoral hotel in Edinburgh under Peter Tyrie from 1990, when he was part of the pre-opening team for its relaunch in 1991. Between 1992 and 1997 he was resident manager at the Forum InterContinental hotel in Glasgow and the Midland hotel in Manchester.

In 1997 Cook began his first stint with Malmaison, spending four years in the group, firstly as general manager of Newcastle and Manchester and then as regional operations director, before the company was sold to Patriot Hospitality.

From 2000 he worked with Malmaison founder Ken McCulloch on the Columbus hotel in Monte Carlo and became managing director for McCulloch's Columbus and Dakota hotel group in the UK.

In 2000 MWB and joint partner Rezidor bought the five-strong Malmaison group for £77m, gaining full control of the chain in 2002. Cook rejoined Malmaison as chief executive officer in 2004, in time to oversee the acquisition of the Hotel du Vin chain from founders Robin Hutson and Gerard Basset for £66.4m that October. He has since been responsible for securing funding to expand both groups nationally. He launched Pub du Vin in 2007, with the first site opening next to the Hotel Du Vin Brighton in 2008 and the second in Birmingham in 2009.

In 2006 Cook was awarded the Catey for Manager of the Year and in the same year Malmaison was named AA Hotel Group of the Year. In 2009 Hotel du Vin won the same award, and for the sixth consecutive year won the Guardian Observer Business Travel Award.

Robert Cook - What we think

A seasoned hotelier at 44, Cook has now seen the Malmaison and Hotel du Vin brands through good times and bad. He engineered the fast paced roll out of the two concepts and defined their brands to ensure different market share, but this was followed by the collapse of the first hotel REIT proposition just as the recession struck.

The group was hit hard by the downturn and responded by cutting rates and stalling its expansion programme. The start of 2011 remained challenging for the group but parent company MWB's second interim report showed a "modest improvement" in both rate and occupancy compared with 2010.

The group has spent the last couple of years consolidating its brand and holding tight but in mid-2010 Robert announced the resumption of the group's expansion programme. Plans include taking the Malmaison brand international - an achievement which still eludes Cook - while expanding the pub and bistro concepts in the UK. Current expansion targets include major European cities including Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Amsterdam and Venice. In January a contract was signed with Rome-based Magellan Hospitality Management Services to identify locations, but firm sites are yet to be announced. In the UK, Cook has set himself an ambitious target of 12 Bistro Du Vin sites over the next five years.

However the situation is still not as cosy as it once was for the group as a whole, as MWB announced in May that it is actively looking at sale and leaseback options for its properties in a bid to reduce its significant debt.

Robert Cook's ranking in the 2010 Caterersearch.com 100 >>

Malmaison eyes European expansion >>

MWB looks to sell and lease back Malmaison assets >>

Hotel du Vin to open 10 restaurants over five years >>

Hotel du Vin to open Bistro du Vin on former Eastside Inn site >>

Malmaison website >>

Hotel du Vin website >>

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