Former Dragons' Den star James Caan scoops up final two Von Essen hotels

31 August 2012 by
Former Dragons' Den star James Caan scoops up final two Von Essen hotels

The final two hotels in the Von Essen portfolio of properties have been sold, with the acquisition of Ston Easton Park and Sharrow Bay by entrepreneur and former Dragons' Den presenter James Caan.

Hamilton Bradshaw, Caan's private equity company, has paid £3m for the 22-bedroom Ston Easton Park in Bath, while the 24-bedroom Sharrow Bay in Cumbria has gone for the knock-down price of £1.5m. Both properties were originally put on the market for £5m.

It is believed that the dramatically reduced price paid for Sharrow Bay - an iconic property founded by Brian Sack and Francis Coulson in 1949 - was due to its short-leasehold status.

Von Essen went into administration in April 2011 with debts of nearly £300m. With the completion of the sale of the two hotels to Caan, the proceeds from the sale of all 27 former Von Essen hotels - 26 in the UK and Château de Bagnols in France - together with a development opportunity on Thorn Island, off the coast of Pembrokeshire, the proceeds from the disposal of the beleaguered company amount to around £150m - far short of the initial price tag of £203.25m.

Most of the hotels are now currently undergoing different levels of refurbishment, following many years of underinvestment by Von Essen in the fabric of the properties.

One of the major beneficiaries of Von Essen's woes is Nigel Chapman, who is currently immersed in spending £10m on breathing new life into seven former Von Essen hotels, which he purchased in a joint venture with Patron Capital for less than £30m. They include the four hotels he and his then partner, Nigel Dickinson, sold to Von Essen in early 2006 for nearly £30m - Woolley Grange in Wiltshire, Fowey Hall in Cornwall, Moonfleet Manor in Dorset, and the Ickworth in Suffolk.

Meanwhile, Dickinson is completing a refurbishment and adding a bistro to another former Von Essen hotel, the 26-bedroom Congham Hall in Norfolk, which he bought earlier this year for £2.5m.

The most expensive former Von Essen hotel was the 41-bedroom Cliveden in Berkshire - sold for nearly £30m for a long lease from the National Trust to billionaire property-developer brothers Ian and Richard Livingstone. The hotel is now being operated alongside sister property Chewton Glen, under the guidance of Andrew Stembridge, and newly appointed general manager, Sue Williams.

Ernst & Young were the administrators for Von Essen, while property agents Christie & Co handled the sale of all the hotels.

Halcyon to invest £10m in ‘neglected' Von Essen hotels >>

Congham Hall sold to experienced hotelier Nicholas Dickinson >> 100: Andrew Davis >>

By Janet Harmer

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