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Grant Hearn

12 May 2005
Grant Hearn

Overall ranking: 31

Hoteliers ranking: 10

Snapshot

Grant Hearn is the chief executive of Travelodge, the fourth largest hotel group in the UK and the second largest budget brand after Whitbread's PremierTravel Inn. He has also taken on responsibility for the Little Chef chain of roadside restaurants that were put up for sale in November 2004.

Career guide

Hearn, who was born in 1958, spent more than a decade with Trusthouse Forte, where his father Dennis was deputy chief executive in the early 1990s. Hearn was deputy managing director for Forte Crest (overseeing 12 London and 15 provincial hotels) and executive director for the London region when he left in March 1995 to become operations director for Whitbread's Country Club Hotel Group, later renamed the Whitbread Hotel Company.

By the end of the year, he was promoted to chief operating officer after Whitbread bought Scotts Hotels and the Marriott franchise for the UK. In December 1996, he became the first managing director of Whitbread's rapidly growing budget hotel brand, Travel Inn, now Premier Travel Inn.

In April 2000, Hearn left to become managing director for the UK and Ireland at Hilton International. March 2003 saw him return to the budget hotel sector when he became chief executive of Travelodge and (in November 2004) of Little Chef which venture capital firm Permira had bought from the Compass Group for £712m.

What we think

Hearn has always played with the biggest boys on the block, and his expansionary skills have ensured he has made his mark on the hotel landscape. Most notably, Hearn has driven the development of the two leading budget brands, Travel Inn and Travelodge.

Hearn was lured from Forte to Whitbread and quickly became the first managing director of the budget Travel Inn brand, which had grown rapidly to 143 sites since its launch in 1987.

By April 1999, the brand had grown to 213 sites and Hearn announced plans to double the number of bedrooms within five years in a £300m expansion drive. He also initiated a £3m makeover of the brand to shed its 1980s' image and introduced the Travel Inn Metro sub-brand for hotels in airports and city centres (except in London, where they were called Travel Inn Capitals).

In early 2003, Hearn became chief executive of Travelodge, the brand his cousin Alan Hearn had launched in the UK in 1985 at Trusthouse Forte, which had bought the US Travelodge business in 1973.

Hearn is a fellow of the HCIMA and a trustee of Hospitality Action, which tackles drug and alcohol abuse in the industry.

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