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Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100 – Sir Rocco Forte, Rocco Forte Hotels

06 December 2012

Overall ranking: 40 (ranked 32 in 2011)
Hotelier ranking: 9 (ranked 9 in 2011)

Sir Rocco Forte is the chairman and chief executive of Rocco Forte Hotels, a group of 13 individual luxury hotels which he set up in 1996 as RF Hotels. The Collection includes the Balmoral in Edinburgh, the Lowry in Manchester, Brown's hotel in London and the Charles hotel in Munich.

Sir Rocco Forte - Career guide Sir Rocco Forte was born in Bournemouth in 1945 the son of (Lord) Charles Forte, arguably one of the world's most influential hoteliers. It's hardly surprising, then, that he was exposed to all aspects of his father's business from the age of 13. He qualified as a chartered accountant in 1969 before joining the family firm, where he rose to become chairman and chief executive of Forte.

During his time at Forte, he had responsibility for more than 800 hotels, 1,000 restaurants and almost 100,000 employees in 50 countries around the world. As chairman, he transformed Forte from a UK operation to an international hotel player, based on the Le Méridien chain and a collection of luxury hotels including the George V in Paris, Sandy Lane in Barbados, the Ritz in Madrid and the Plaza Athénée in New York.

In 1996, the company was subject to a £3.87b hostile takeover by Granada. Forte founded RF Hotels after failing to buy back the Le Méridien hotel chain from Granada in 1996. It only became Rocco Forte Hotels in 2001 when Compass Group returned the rights to the Forte business name it had inherited from its merger with Granada in 2000.

The group was renamed Rocco Forte Hotels in July 2007 and now comprises: Rocco Forte Hotel Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi; Hotel de Russie, Rome; Hotel Savoy, Florence; the Balmoral, Edinburgh; the Lowry Hotel, Manchester; Hotel Astoria, St Petersburg; Hotel Amigo, Brussels; Brown's Hotel, London; Villa Kennedy, Frankfurt; Hotel de Rome, Berlin; the Charles Hotel, Munich; the Augustine, Prague; Verdura Golf & Spa Resort, Sicily.

In 2010, Le Richemond in Geneva was sold to an investment-holding company represented by Cedar Capital Partners which the following year replaces the Rocco Forte Collection with the Dorchester Collection as its operator.

In terms of future plans, a 211-bedroom property is set to open in Jeddah at the end of 2013/2014. The Rocco Forte pipeline also includes a 90 all-suite golf and spa resort in Marrakech with 80 luxury villas, a 253-bedroom hotel in Cairo (formerly the Shepheard hotel) and the Luxor hotel in Egypt under a management contract. This will be the fifth management contract win in the Middle East & North Africa after Abu Dhabi, Jeddah, Marrakech and Cairo.

Sir Rocco Forte - What we think It was never going to be easy for Sir Rocco to make his own mark on the industry that his father dominated for so many years, but despite the odds, he has undoubtedly become a respected hotelier and industry leader in his own right.

His company, Rocco Forte Hotels, has maintained a reputation for quality, with all the properties in the group being members of the Leading Hotels of the World consortium. December 2011 saw the opening of the group's latest property in Abu Dhabi - a 281-bedroom hotel in the centre of the city.

But it's not all been plain sailing. The group was badly affected by the global recession. 2010 saw a $41m (£25.2m) loss, on top of a $9m (£5.5m) loss the previous year. This seems to have been resolved through the sale of Le Richemond Hotel in Geneva for an estimated $82m (£50.4m) and a reaching a long-term agreement with the banks on financing and their joint venture.

Sir Rocco told ArabianBusiness.com in May 2011: "At the height of the recession our sales dropped by about 20% and we recovered 12.5% last year. Last year, there was a big recovery in the luxury market in Europe. There was a strong recovery in business from the US, which is our principal market."

The hotelier is now concentrating on his expansion plans for the group in the Middle East which will take him to five management contracts in total, with others in Jeddah (2013), Marrakech (2014), and Cairo (2014) and seems to mark a new way forward for the company.

Sir Rocco has also previously admitted looking for other sites in Oman, Dubai and Riyadh as well as other major European cities. "I still want to finish off Europe - there are a number of cities I'm not represented in there," he said, citing Madrid, Paris, Milan, Venice, Moscow, Amsterdam as targets.

RF opens Abu Dhabi >>

Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Sir Rocco Forte, Rocco Forte Collection >>

Rocco Forte Collection to manage second Egyptian hotel >>

Rocco Forte sells Le Richemond >>

Hoteliers dominate hospitality Rich List >>

The legend of Rocco >>

Rocco Forte website >>

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