The purchase of the 19-bedroom Mount Somerset in Taunton by the Eden Hotel Collection from the beleaguered Von Essen has confirmed the company's position as one of the UK's most significant portfolios of privately owned country house hotels.
Last month, the group acquired another former Von Essen property, the 17-bedroom Greenway hotel and spa in Cheltenham.
The collapse of the Von Essen group of 31 hotels into administration with debts of £295m in April has enabled the likes of well-heeled individuals - such as computer and aviation entrepreneur Sir Peter Rigby, who owns the Eden Hotel Collection - to expand their hotel interests. In October Andrew Brownsword, who made his fortune by selling his greeting cards business, bought four of the former Von Essen hotels, off a combined guide price of £32.5m, to add to Gidleigh Park and the Bath Priory.
The Eden Hotel Collection now numbers seven luxury hotels. In the summer the group bought the 17-bedroom Brockencote Hall in Worcestershire, for more than £3m, to add to its existing one-Michelin-starred Mallory Court in Leamington Spa, the Kings Hotel in Chipping Campden, the Arden Hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon and the Buckland Tout-Saints in Kingsbridge, Devon.
The group's managing director Mark Chambers said the Von Essen acquisitions are excellent strategic additions for the company as they link its hotels in the Midlands with the Devon hotel, providing advantageous marketing opportunities.
"We are delighted with the new properties and are going to consolidate our new purchases by bringing them into line with the rest of the group by reintroducing some of the enhancements of hotelkeeping - such as fresh fruit in the bedrooms - which had recently been cut back at Von Essen," he said.
Chambers said that structural improvements to the exterior of the building are currently taking place at the Greenway to bring it in line with its recently refurbished interior, while Mount Somerset is in excellent condition following the addition of eight bedrooms and a spa.
With the backing of Rigby, who is worth an estimated £480m, according to the Sunday Times Rich List 2011, the Eden Hotel Collection provides a more secure future for Mount Somerset and the Greenway, which were purchased off respective guide prices of £3m and £3.5m.
It is believed that another new group of country house hotels will be created from the demise of Von Essen if Nigel Chapman buys the five family hotels, including Fowey Hall in Cornwall, the Ickworth in Suffolk, Moonfleet Manor in Dorset, Woolley Grange in Wiltshire and the Elms in Worcestershire, as rumoured. Chapman, with his business partner, Nicholas Dickinson, sold the first four hotels to Von Essen for about £30m in early 2006.
By Janet Harmer
E-mail your comments to Janet Harmer here.
If you have something to say on this story or anything else join the debate at Table Talk - Caterer's new networking forum. Go to www.catererandhotelkeeper.com/tabletalk
Looking for a new job? Find your next job here with Catererandhotelkeeper.com jobs