The owners of Eastbourne's family-run Langham Hotel want to pass on the business to their sons, they have revealed.
Hospitality veterans Wendy and Neil Kirby have revealed that when they retire, they would prefer to pass on the business to one or both of their sons, Neil Junior or David. Neil Junior has already worked in the hotel since 2007.
The couple sought advice from Neil Kirby's former boss, Exclusive Hotels founder Giuseppe Pecorelli, who suggested that a gradual handover would be the best option.
Commenting on the plans, Kirby told Caterer and Hotelkeeper: "Naturally I would want to safeguard our years of investment and all the hard work we have put into the Langham. I want customer service to remain at its best. [It] has to keep growing and developing. Even in retirement, Wendy and I would want to sit in on the monthly board meetings and continue to look at the way forward for us as a family business."
The couple set themselves the target of raising the hotel to four-star standard by November 2014, but after eight years spent investing £1.5m on increasing staff numbers and improving standards they achieved their goal one year ahead of schedule.
Having spent 46 years in the hospitality industry working primarily at the Grosvenor House Hotel Park Lane, the pair are now considering when to retire.
Kirby - who is 61 â' said that despite doubts over whether he could really "let it go", he and his wife would like to see more of friends and family, travel, and do more charity work, including running fundraising marathons (since 1981 Neil has raised over £250,000 for charity, and run 29 marathons and 174 half-marathons).
"People say I will be bored if I retire at 65," he said. "But we have lost touch with a lot of friends because we have worked too hard and for too many hours. When we first bought the Langham, friends used to call in to say hello, but we could not spare them any of our time."
If neither son goes on to run the hotel, the couple is adamant that they would sell "without hesitation". Despite this, they admit they would like the business to stay in the family.
Kirby added: "It's not worth having a family business with no family running it. We could put over £3m in the bank and just enjoy ourselves, but it is not really what I want. I would like to see the Kirby family empire continue for future generations."
The hotel recently celebrated its 100th birthday, having opened its doors in March 1913.