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Hotel Cateys 2015: Hotelier of the Year

02 December 2015
Hotel Cateys 2015: Hotelier of the Year

Sponsored by Casna Group

Nick Jones, founder and chief executive, Soho House & Co

The judging panel of the 33rd Hotelier of the Year award was hard-pushed to think of a more influential hotel operator in terms of design and style who has consistently maintained a hands-on approach to running his business than Nick Jones.

With Babington House, Jones kicked off the concept of laid-back luxury mixed with glamour in a country house, while just three months ago he opened Soho Farmhouse, a unique resort-style concept within a 100-acre Oxfordshire estate.

His journey to the top is an inspirational one when considering the battle he has had with dyslexia. He was diagnosed at the age of 10 or 11 and went to Shiplake College in Henley-on-Thames, where pupils are encouraged to reach their potential, whatever their ability.

He entered the industry on the Trusthouse Forte training scheme, working in the Westbury, Grosvenor House and the Hyde Park Hotel before gaining experience at Pasta Mania and Maxwell's bar and grill in Covent Garden.

Jones set up in business on his own in the 1980s, launching an unsuccessful restaurant called Over the Top, before in 1995 founding Soho House, which today is a global company with 15 clubs and 17 restaurant brands.

The success of Soho House - and all other Houses that have followed - stemmed from Jones' desire to kick into touch the plethora of rules and regulations he was often faced with when staying away. "Why, for instance, could I never get eggs and bacon in a hotel at 4pm on a Sunday afternoon?" he said.

"I wanted to create bedrooms that were so much nicer than guests had at home. So we put in Sky TV as a time when hardly anyone had Sky TV, piles of fluffy towels and lots of bathroom amenities. It was important to provide a sense of generosity."

Jones' approach has paid off with an almost continuous occupancy of 98% at Babington House over the past 17 years. Across all the hotels, occupancy averages 90%.

The judges awarded Jones the UK's highest accolade for hoteliers for creating a new breed of hotels which have been endlessly copied, but rarely improved upon.

What the judges said

"It's impossible to overstate the influence Babington House has had on the sector."

Richard Ball, executive chairman, Calcot Collection

"Nick sees no boundaries and is a total original with an amazing sense of bravado. He curates exciting, sexy places, where you want to be."

Gordon Campbell Gray, chairman, CampbellGray Hotels, and 2002 Hotelier of the Year

"Diplomat, designer, gourmet, entrepreneur - but above all, he has the ability to sell an idea."

Robin Hutson, chairman and chief executive, Lime Wood Group & Home Grown Hotels, and 2003 Hotelier of the Year

"This country should be proud that he is, first and foremost, a British hotelier."

Fiona Duncan, hotel critic, The Sunday Telegraph

Past winners

  • 2014 Danny Pecorelli

  • 2013 Stuart Bowery

  • 2012 Stuart Johnson

  • 2011 Stephen Carter

  • 2010 Andrew Stembridge

  • 2009 Jonathan Raggett

  • 2008 Andrew McKenzie

  • 2007 Michael Gray

  • 2006 Richard Ball

  • 2005 John Stauss

  • 2004 Patrick Elsmie

  • 2003 Robin Hutson

  • 2002 Gordon Campbell Gray

  • 2001 Karen Earp

  • 2000 Peter Crome

  • 1999 Nick Ryan

  • 1998 Nicholas Rettie

  • 1997 Peter Lederer

  • 1996 Chris Rouse

  • 1995 Ricci Obertelli

  • 1994 David Levin

  • 1993 Ken McCulloch

  • 1992 Dagmar Woodward

  • 1991 Martin Skan

  • 1990 George Goring

  • 1989 Grete Hobbs

  • 1988 Ronald Jones

  • 1987 Eoin Dillon

  • 1986 Harry Murray

  • 1985 Terry Holmes

  • 1984 RamÁ³n Pajares

  • 1983 Richard Edwards

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