Topland Group has appointed Lionel Benjamin as director of hotels to lead its strategy to build a £1b hotel business.
Benjamin joins the company from the Ability Group where for three-and-a-half-years he headed its hotel and leisure division, which includes a portfolio of seven properties headed by the Hilton London Syon Park.
Prior to that he was senior director of asset integration at Hilton Worldwide where he was involved in the sale of 13 Hilton hotels including a European portfolio. Benjamin, who was awarded an honorary professorship of hospitality and tourism at the University of West London in 2006 has also been director of operations at the Savoy and the Hilton London Metropole.
In December, Topland, which is led by chief executive Sol Zakay and is one of the largest privately owned international investment groups, acquired the parent company of Menzies Hotels from administration for nearly £85m. The acquisition, which saved 1,200 jobs, saw Topland acquire 12 mostly four-star hotels, located from Aberdeen to Bournemouth. Bespoke Hotels are now managing the properties.
The deal was part of an ambitious plan to build a £1b hotel business. Topland now owns 21 hotels including Bath's Royal Crescent Hotel, the Brighton Metropole, the Glasgow Hilton and a portfolio of Thistle Hotels, six in central London and one in Edinburgh.
Zakay said: "We have highlighted our strategy of increasing the diversification of the Topland Group. Our hotels business is a key element of that strategy. Lionel has a mandate to seek out hotels of a similar ilk in luxury and quality to Royal Crescent which we will own outright and operate. The primary focus will be in the UK but we will also look at single assets or portfolios in continental Europe or further abroad."
Benjamin added:: "I was particularly attracted to the entrepreneurial flair of the Topland Group and its quick decision making structure. The opportunity to join such a financial powerhouse and develop such an exciting hotel business was too good an opportunity to turn down."