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The Caterer

Nicholas Dickinson

12 May 2005
Nicholas Dickinson

Overall ranking: 86

Hoteliers ranking: 22

Snapshot

Last year, the pair formed a joint venture with GuestInvest, which has pioneered the concept of buy-to-let hotel rooms in the UK, as a novel way of funding ambitious expansion plans for the boutique Alias brand.

The partners have also developed an overseas resort and holiday tour operator business.

Career guide

Dickinson, who was born in 1963, started his career at the five red-star Chewton Glen hotel in New Milton, Hampshire, between 1982 and 1989, where he worked as trainee manager, reception manager and sales manager.

He moved to Raymond Blanc's four AA red-star Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons hotel in Great Milton, Oxfordshire, where he rose from general manager to managing director between 1982 and 1989.

Dickinson co-founded LFH in 1994 and Alias Hotels in 2000 with Chapman.

In 2004, the partners moved into the holiday business by founding Four Winds Resorts and acquiring Cirencester-based Meriski, which operates ski chalets in France. In October 2004, they sold Alias Hotels for £30.4m to a joint venture between GuestInvest and the Alias management.

What we think

Dickinson gained valuable experience at two of the UK's top-ranking hotels. His promise was recognised in 1990 while he was working at Le Manoir when he won a Caterer Acorn award for young high achievers.

The two hotel companies he founded with Chapman target distinctly different niche markets. LFH is a collection of four-star hotels in rural settings that are designed as child-friendly destinations for upmarket customers. Alias, on the other hand, is a city-centre boutique brand that offers style (with a humorous twist) at affordable prices.

Dickinson has grown LFH into a four-strong group comprising Woolley Grange in Wiltshire (which Chapman opened in 1989), Moonfleet Manor in Weymouth, Fowey Hall in Exeter and the Ickworth in Suffolk.

Alias also has four hotels - the Kandinsky in Cheltenham, the Barcelona in Exeter, the Rossetti in Manchester and the Seattle in Brighton - with a fifth, the St Louis, set to open in Liverpool in 2006.

The two hotel groups have proved financially successful and boosted 2003 profits by 90% to £5m on turnover up 68% to £10.9m. But Dickinson's ambitions to rapidly roll out the Alias brand have been frustrated by difficulties in securing funds.

As the traditional sale-and-leaseback route to fund-raising is barred to smaller companies, Dickinson hit on a novel and alternative route to kick-start the brand's development - that of selling hotel bedrooms to individual investors who receive nearly half the revenue from letting out their rooms when they are not staying in them.

He has linked Alias with Johnny Sandelson's GuestInvest, whose first buy-to-let hotel has proved an instant success since it opened in London's Notting Hill in March 2004.

Initially, 153 Alias bedrooms will be offered for sale for an average £200,000 on 99-year leases (but not at the Seattle, which is itself leased). The plan is to open at least two new Alias hotels a year, although not all will be based on the buy-to-let model.

Dickinson wants to open 15 Alias hotels within four years, and is looking at sites in London, Bristol, Plymouth, Cardiff, Poole and Southampton.

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