Overall ranking: 20
Hotelier ranking: 5
Sir Rocco Forte is the chairman and chief executive of Rocco Forte Hotels, which he set up in 1996 shortly after losing Forte plc (the hospitality giant founded by his father in 1934) to a £3.87b hostile takeover by Granada. He has built up a collection of 10 luxury, five-star hotels in the UK, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, France and Russia. All but the French property (which is managed) are company owned or joint ventures with the Bank of Scotland. An eleventh hotel, the Angleterre in St Petersburg, is a four-star property that falls outside the Rocco Forte brand.
Sir Rocco, who was born in Bournemouth in 1945, was exposed to all aspects of his father's business from the age of 13. He qualified as a chartered accountant in 1969 before joining the family firm, where he rose to become chairman and chief executive of Forte plc.
He founded RF Hotels after failing to buy back the Méridien hotel chain from Granada in 1996. It became Rocco Forte Hotels in 2001 when the Compass Group returned the rights to the Forte business name which it inherited from its merger with Granada in 2000.
What we think
After heading up one of the UK's largest catering and hospitality businesses, Sir Rocco is now steering a more focused hotel group to international success. Rocco Forte Hotels has won dozens of awards for its service and for its stylish design, which is overseen by Sir Rocco's sister, Olga Polizzi, a designer of international repute and herself the owner of two UK hotels.
At Forte, Sir Rocco was responsible for more than 800 hotels, 1,000 restaurants and nearly 100,000 employees in 50 countries. He transformed the business developed by his Italian immigrant father from a chain of West End milk bars into an international player on the back of the Méridien hotel chain.
At the time of the Granada takeover, the Forte empire included the Forte Posthouse, Forte Crest, Travelodge and Heritage hotel chains as well as the Welcome Break, Little Chef, and Happy Eater motorway and roadside restaurant chains.
Rocco Forte hotels are designed to be individual with restaurants that are dining destinations in their own right - for example, Marco Pierre White created the restaurant at the Manchester Lowry hotel. The group's hotels in Manchester and Cardiff (the first five-star hotel in Wales) are credited with helping to revitalise these cities.
The current portfolio has some echoes of the past - Forte once managed Edinburgh's Balmoral hotel and owned Brown's hotel in London. Sir Rocco aims to operate 20 luxury hotels in key European cities by 2006 and, in 2001, he set up a £270m joint venture to expand the chain with the Bank of Scotland, which currently co-owns four properties. Openings in the pipeline include Berlin and Frankfurt in 2006, followed by Munich and a golf resort and spa in Sicily in 2007.
Sir Rocco's £385m fortune ranked him 117th in the 2004 Sunday Times Rich List.