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Caterersearch.com 100: Richard Balfour-Lynn

01 July 2010
Caterersearch.com 100: Richard Balfour-Lynn

Overall ranking: 19

Hotelier ranking: 6

Richard Balfour-Lynn - Snapshot

Richard Balfour-Lynn heads up two companies that have become significant players on the UK hotel landscape. He is the chief executive of property investment group http://www.devere.co.uk/home.html" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">Marylebone Warwick Balfour ](http://www.mwb.co.uk/mwb/)(MWB), which owns boutique hotel chains in [Malmaison ](http://www.malmaison.com/)and [Hotel du Vin](http://www.hotelduvin.com/). Balfour-Lynn is also the chairman and a major shareholder in the Alternative Hotel Group (AHG), which owns the [De Vere Groupof 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.

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, Searcy's and De Vere, he is chairman of Alternative Investment Market-listed retail group Liberty, owner of the Liberty store in central London, and head of serviced office provider MWB Business Exchange.

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.

But he is not one to take his eye off the ball. After murmurings in the industry about the high turnover of general managers at De Vere properties, Balfour-Lynn was unrepentant.

"The thing is, I'm a street fighter in a suit," he told Caterer in 2008. "The world has now completely changed and you've got to be proactive and fight for every piece of business you want. A lot of people can't cope with that - they simply aren't good enough in today's world. People are saying, ‘It's not for me, I want a quieter life,' and there are plenty of 9-5 jobs out there. But if you want to work for us, it's 23 hours a day. And if you're successful, I'm gonna pay you a lot of money."

You can expect Balfour-Lynn to get market value. Malmaison was up for sale in 2007, but when nobody came in at the asking price - thought to be in the region of £700m - he took it off the market and now intends to expand the hotel chain.

Balfour-Lynn is looking at sites in London, Amsterdam and Brussels for the next Malmaison and believes there is an opportunity to double the size of the Hotel du Vin brand. There are currently 12 Malmaison and 15 Hotel du Vin properties - all in the UK.

And while AHG hit some tough times during the recession, Balfour-Lynn successfully completed a £650m debt-for-equity swap with the Bank of Scotland in March 2010, freeing up funds for further expansion of the hotels in the group.

Richard Balfour-Lynn - Further information

Interview: Richard Balfour-Lynn on De Vere, Malmaison and Searcys >>

Cook to expand Malmaison and Hotel Du Vin brands >>

De Vere owner completes £650m debt restructure with bank >>

Read more about the Caterersearch.com 100, the list of the most influential people, here >>

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