Caterersearch.com 100: Andrew Davis
Overall ranking: 81
Hotelier ranking: 19
Andrew Davis - Snapshot
Andrew Davis is the entrepreneur behind Von Essen Hotels, which, since its foundation in 1996, has built up a collection of 29 three- to five-star hotels, including legendary properties such as Cliveden in Berkshire, Sharrow Bay in Cumbria and Château de Bagnols in south-east France. The group employs 1,417 staff and profits have grown 44% a year from an annualised £3.3m in 2005 to 2008. Turnover increased 20% from £56.8m in 2007 to more than £70.6m in 2008. Gross profit jumped 24% to £60.678m, while net profit for the year rose from £6.123m to £10.809m in 2008. Davis himself has an estimated wealth of £210m, according to last year's Sunday Times Rich List.
Andrew Davis - Career guide
Davis, 46, originally 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 auction house and was involved in property development, property investment and farming.
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.
The group had three properties - Mount Somerset hotel in Taunton, Congham Hall hotel in Norfolk and New Park Manor in Hampshire - by 2000, when it snapped up Ston Easton Park in Bath and Thornbury Castle in Gloucestershire for about £5m apiece.
Bishopstrow House hotel in Wiltshire followed in 2001. The next year Davis bought the world-famous Cliveden in Berkshire - which won a Michelin star in 2006 under chef Daniel Galmiche - 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 - Buckland Manor, Lower Slaughter, Washbourne Court and the Elms - for £16m. 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.
Growth continued, and by 2006 the group was moving into new markets. Davis targeted the family-friendly market when, for £20m, he snapped up three of the four properties in the Luxury Family Hotels group established by Nigel Chapman and Nicholas Dickinson in 1993.
By September he had added the fourth property, the Ickworth hotel, after renegotiating a deeply unattractive lease with landowner the National Trust. It joins Cliveden as one of two Von Essen hotels to be leased from the National Trust, where Davis sees possible future opportunities.
The same month, Davis snapped up his first Welsh property, the celebrated Ynyshir Hall, which is the only hotel in Wales to belong to the exclusive Relais & Châteaux consortium and one of just four to hold a Michelin star.
Andrew Davis - What we think
Von Essen was founded with the aid of a trust fund set up by Davis's Austrian aunt, the Countess Von Essen. There are now 29 hotels and counting in the portfolio, and Davis pledged to double the company's portfolio after making profits of more than £10m in 2008.
In the coming year Davis is continuing work on a second Welsh property, a romantic island retreat on Thorne Island, which will be linked to the Pembrokeshire coast by cable car. Along with a five-star international hotel, the island in the Pembrokeshire National Park will offer a seawater spa, a preview cinema with editing suite and a contemporary seafood restaurant hosted by a celebrity chef.
Perhaps Davis's biggest project to date is the new-build 70-bedroom Hotel Verta at the London Heliport. Part of the £150m Bridges Wharf development, it will be the first integrated hotel heliport in Europe and is expected to catch plenty of business during the 2012 Olympics. Scheduled to open in 2010, it will also be Von Essen's first hotel in the capital, joining the company's Metropolitan set. In yet another first, the high-design state-of-the-art building will mark a deviation from the historic buildings in the rest of the Von Essen portfolio.
Recent awards picked up by the group include four accolades at the Condé Nast Johansens Awards for Excellence 2010, being named AA Hotel Group of the Year for 2009-10 and Hotel Chain of the Year at the British Travel Awards 2009.
Andrew Davis - Further information
Developer hands over Hotel Verta and heliport to Von Essen >>
Von Essen on spending spree after boosting annual profits >>
Von Essen buys the Forbury in Reading from administration >>
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