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Tim and Kit Kemp

12 May 2005
Tim and Kit Kemp

Overall ranking: 24

Hotelier ranking: 6

Snapshot

Tim and Kit Kemp are the co-founders of Firmdale Hotels, which has built up a collection of six stylish yet affordable boutique properties in London employing around 600 staff. The group made a profit of £1m in 2003-2004 on a turnover of £14m.

Kit is the group's design director while Tim is the property developer and number cruncher.

Career guide

The Kemps, who are in their fifties, met while Kit was working in an architect's, office in London. She and Tim, who had been working in the property sector, went on to develop a string of small hotels in West London offering student accommodation.

They set up Firmdale Hotels to open their first boutique hotel, Dorset Square, in 1985.

What we think

Firmdale Hotels effectively redefined the concept of the luxury London hotel. When the Kemps opened the Dorset Square hotel in Marylebone, the only other boutique property in London was Anoushka Hempel's Blakes hotel.

Firmdale's lead was followed by Gordon Campbell-Gray's One Aldwych and Christina Ong's Halkin and Metropolitan hotels. A second wave brought boutique chains from Malmaison, the Eton Group, Alias Hotels and Ian Schrager along with the W brand from corporate giant Starwood.

Like many pioneers of the boutique concept, the Kemps had problems enthusing the money men and were turned down by 14 banks before they secured the funding for their first hotel.

But the concept has proved enduring and Firmdale hotels run at near 100% occupancy all year round. The Kemps have made an estimated £60m fortune from the company and have been awarded countless accolades for their achievements.

They include the Award of Excellence from Luxury Briefing's magazine, the Queen's Award for Enterprise in 2000 and the RAC Credit to the Industry Award in 2004 for setting new standards of excellence. Kit was also one of 50 females honoured at the third Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World ceremony in 1999.

All Firmdale hotels are rebuilt and designed from scratch by self-taught designer Kit. This is a practical as well as an artistic necessity bearing in mind some of their origins as a former hospital, a multi-storey car park or a dental warehouse. Kit's eye for detail ensures that no two rooms are the same, although she has developed a design signature in the mannequins placed in all the bedrooms.

Her style has evolved from the grand country-house hotel style of Dorset Square to the chic London design of Firmdale's newest offering, the Soho hotel, which opened in September 2004.

Firmdale has offloaded its first property, Dorset Square, along with Durley House hotel (which opened in Sloane Square in 1989) and four standalone restaurants.

The Kemps have now begun work on a seventh property, the 50-bedroom Haymarket hotel with restaurant and bar, which will open in mid-2006.

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