A company set up by Nicholas Cowell, the brother of Simon Cowell, has emerged as the new owner of Hotel Verta, the new-build hotel launched just over a year ago by the beleaguered Von Essen group.
Woodlon, which names Cowell as one of four directors, completed the acquisition of the 70-bedroom hotel overlooking the River Thames in Battersea on Friday, off a guide price of £20m, although Woodlon is thought to have paid around £17m-£18m. The property, which was developed for £50m, went into administration in July, following the collapse of Von Essen Hotels three months earlier with debts of nearly £300m.
The purchase of Verta marks Cowell's latest move into hotel's acquisitions. He is the director of several companies, including the Estate Office, a developer of residential and commercial property, and through them owns several Hilton-branded hotels, including the 129-bedroom Hilton on Hyde Park, which was bought last year for £125m.
Cowell's co-founder of the Estate Ofice and Woodlon, Adrian Levy, said that further hotel purchases were likely to be made in 2012, following the securing of £200m-worth of funds made up of £100m from private investors in Hong Kong and £100m of bank debt.
"We are mainly looking for distressed assets and will be bringing in hotel operators to run the properties to add value to the assets," he explained.
Verta is now being managed by Hong Kong-based Rhombus International Hotels Group, which currently looks after four properties in Hong Kong, with a flagship hotel opening in China in early 2012.
"We did speak to a number of hotel management companies in the UK, but we were impressed by Rhombus's track record in Asia and were interested in the number of very good ideas they have for marketing bedrooms at Verta," Levy said.
Although the hotel has been renamed as Hotel Verta by Rhombus, Levy said he expects the Verta name would eventually be phased out.
By Janet Harmer
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