Hand Picked Hotels is set to expand its 20-strong portfolio following the acquisition of three properties in the past 16 months.
Julia Hands, chairman and chief executive of the group of four-star country house hotels, told Caterer and Hotelkeeper that the company is currently looking at a couple of properties, but does not want want it to grow to the point where it has to introduce another layer of management.
"At the moment I know most of the staff and they know me and I would not want the team to lose the intimate and close relationship we currently enjoy, she explained. "However, I think we could accommodate another two or three hotels."
Hands was speaking prior to a reception last night at Bailbrook House in Bath, at which the 94-bedroom hotel was officially welcomed into the Hand Picked group, following a £10m refurbishment. Hand Picked bought the hotel in June 2012 as a three-star, 78-bedroom property from investor clients of real estate advisory company Delancey off a guide price of £6.95m.
Alongside Bailbrook House, Hand Picked has also recently added the 131-bedroom St Pierre Park in Guernsey and 58-bedroom Fawsley Hall, near Silverstone, Northamptonshire, to the group. The three hotels mark the first acquisitions for the company since 2008.
While Hands would not disclose the price Hand Picked had paid for the three properties - funded by private equity financing - she said they represented "good value".
Regarding future acquisitions, Hands revealed that the group has looked at the 64-bedroom Bovey Castle in the Dartmoor National Park, Devon, which Delancey has been trying to off-load for more than a year, but would not comment further. Specific locations the company would like to be present in include the west coast of Scotland, north of London in Herefordshire or Buckinghamshire and west of the M5.
Set in 20 acres of grounds, the Grade II*-listed Bailbrook House has been transformed since its acquisition by Hand Picked from what was previously primarily a conference and training centre. Thirteen new feature bedrooms have been created in the Georgian mansion house, while the rest of the bedrooms in a newer part of the building have been refurbished. The hotel now has two restaurants - the Cloisters fine dining eateries, occupying a previously redundant basement space, and the Lansdown, which offers a brasserie-style menu.
Hand Picked Hotels was created by Julia Hands, a former lawyer, from a collection of hotels purchased with her husband, city financier Guy Hands, in 2001. In the past two years, the couple have personally reduced the company's debt from £99m to £80m, a figure which Hands said is now "perfectly manageable".
The company's most recent set of accounts, published in June, recorded an annual turnover during 2012 of £59.9m, and EBIDTA of £8.28m. Hands said that while occupancies and room rates are "edging-up", they have still not returned to the highs recorded prior to the financial crash of 2008.