David Orr

12 May 2005
David Orr

Overall ranking: 40

Hoteliers ranking: 13


David Orr is the chief executive of City Inn, the owner and operator of a collection of large, four-star, city centre hotels with an award-winning approach to design. All are new-builds offering a contemporary but understated style, personalised service and top-notch destination restaurants (called City Cafés). The company, which was set up in 1995, has opened four hotels since 1998.

Career guide

Orr, who was born in 1963, read political science at Birmingham and completed a masters degree in land management at the University of Reading before taking his first job as a property consultant.

He became a partner in John A S McGregor Chartered Surveyors in 1993, where he secured sites for Whitbread's Travel Inn, Brewers Fayre, Costa Coffee, Hogshead and TGI Friday's brands for Whitbread.

City Inn, a joint venture with HBOS (Halifax Bank of Scotland), opened its first hotel in Bristol in 1999. This was followed by hotels in Glasgow (2000), Birmingham (2001) and the flagship Westminster property in 2003, whose 460 bedrooms made it the largest new-build hotel in central London in 30 years.

What we think

In five years Orr has built up a business worth more than £100m - not bad for what he describes as "a weekend hobby that got out of control". In fact, Orr has put a great deal of thought into the development of the City Inn concept, and at least one brick in his design philosophy dates back to the seven months he spent training to be a cricketer in India after leaving school.

Here he encountered the Maharajah of Baroda's Palace, whose French architect committed suicide after realising that the building was facing the wrong way. This architectural lesson informs Orr's self-confessed "obsessive attention" to natural light and orientation.

Before opening the first hotel, he spent three years travelling around the UK, looking at sites and researching hotel designs, room ergonomics and the needs of the business traveller.

This long gestation period delivered a stringent blueprint for City Inns, whose style Orr sums up as "restrained, urban and modernistic, without being a fashion statement".

The new kid on the block is shooting up fast. Orr aims to have 10 or 11 hotels under his belt by 2006 and has extended his vision to western Europe and the USA. This August will see the opening of a 284-bedroom hotel in Manchester's Piccadilly Place and Orr is looking at Leeds and Edinburgh, as well as further sites in London.

City Inn says it is on target to post its first pre-tax profit for the year to March 2005. Last year, the group reported a net profit of £1.3m and operating profits of £9m on an £18m turnover.

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