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Von Essen group bids £30m-plus for LFH

20 October 2005

By Emily Manson and Jessica Gunn
Upmarket hotel group Von Essen has made a bid in excess of 30m for Luxury Family Hotels (LFH), it was exclusively revealed on CatererSearch last week.
Sharemark-listed LFH consists of four hotels - the Woolley Grange in Wiltshire, Fowey Hall in Cornwall, Moonfleet Manor in Dorset and the Ickworth Hotel in Suffolk.
Von Essen said preliminary discussions had now been concluded and a bid of 2.70 per share would be put to shareholders this month, with the aim of completing the deal by the end of the year.
Von Essen operations director Nicholas Romano said: "If we say we're going to do something, we do it."
Any successful offer to take the company private would require acceptance from 90% of LFH shareholders.
LFH managing director Nicholas Dickinson said the offer was a fantastic opportunity. "We never intended to sell but it would give shareholders a great return."
Von Essen said it planned to spend 7.5m refurbishing the four hotels, on top of the 38m already earmarked to upgrade its existing 17 properties.
Properties within its three Classic, Country and Luxury Family brands will be reshuffled with Lewtrenchard Manor and Lower Slaughter Manor upgraded to Classic, while Bishopstrow House and the Elms would be repositioned under the Luxury Family banner.
Von Essen's latest bid forms part of extensive expansion plans, which include buying a central London hotel for 100m. It also plans to spend a further 100m within the next six months on purchasing up to six independent hotels in Scotland, the Lakes, the South and the East of England. Von Essen also claims it has an additional 100m to expand into France and Italy.
LFH was founded by Nigel Chapman and Nicholas Dickinson in 1993. The group employs more than 400 staff and has an annual turnover in excess of 10m. Chapman and Nicholas also founded the Alias hotels group in 1999, which is also on the market.
Von Essen, founded in 1996 by Andrew Davis, consists of 17 three- to five-star hotels - including landmark properties such as Cliveden in Berkshire and Sharrow Bay in Cumbria.

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