Ronald Jones, the 1988 Hotelier of the Year and former general manager of Claridge's hotel in London, has died at the age of 95.
Jones, described as "a consummate hotelier", spent 10 years at the helm at Claridge's, from 1984 to 1994, a period described in his autobiography, Grand Hotelier: Behind the Scenes in Britain's Best Hotels, as "the best possible climax to an eventful and exciting career".
He was born in 1926 in Liverpool and entered the hotel industry at the age of 14 when he joined the city's Adelphi hotel as a junior control clerk in the accounts office on a wage of 16 shillings (80p) a week. He had hoped to study at Liverpool College of Art, but following the death of his father, he was expected as an only child to support his widowed mother.
During the 56 years he spent working in hotels – interrupted only by a two-year stint in the Royal Navy – Jones held management positions at what were then two of the UK's leading hotel companies: British Transport Hotels (the Adelphi in Liverpool, Midland hotel, Manchester, Queen's hotel in Leeds and Turnberry and Gleneagles in Scotland) and the Savoy Hotel Group (Claridge's). He also worked at the Royal Garden and the Athenaeum hotels in London.
It was while at the Athenaeum that he met his second wife, Eve Macpherson, a journalist, when she interviewed him in 1977 for the first in a series of articles on Great British Hoteliers for The Caterer. He wrote in his autobiography: "She asked me so many questions I had to marry her to keep quiet." They were married a year later at the Queen's Chapel of the Savoy, where Jones' funeral will take place.
On his retirement, Jones went on to enjoy what Eve described as "a new and exciting life", during which they travelled the world together for more than 20 years as guest lecturers on cruise liners, spending four to five months a year on the likes of the QE2 and Queen Mary, as well as the ships of Silversea, Seabourn, Saga and Regent Seven Seas and Oceania. They also wrote several books together.
Eve described her husband as "the most beautiful man I've ever known and the most loved man I've ever known" who in his role as one of the UK's most highly respected hoteliers was "a greater mentor who was loved by his staff".
She continued: "Early on he was told that he would not succeed as a hotel manager as he had not had a great education and had not been to public school or university. But he was a born host who was great at dealing with all levels of people, from royalty and heads of state to the doorman and room maids."
Jones was named The Caterer's Hotelier of the Year in 1988 while at Claridge's. He was awarded an OBE in 1989, was a visiting fellow of Oxford Brookes University, received an honorary doctorate from the University of Derby, and became one of the early Master Innholders. He served as a director of Dormy House hotel in Broadway, Worcestershire, from 1995 to 2010.
Nicholas Rettie, the 1998 Hotelier of the Year, got to know Jones when he employed him as his deputy general manager at the Athenaeum in 1981: "Under his stewardship the hotel quickly became known as a favourite among not only business clients wishing to stay in the Mayfair/Park Lane area while avoiding the ‘big name' hotels, but also among the Los Angeles and New York film producers and actors.
"Ron was a wonderful boss: he demanded the highest standards of service and attention to detail, the essential qualities of a great hotelier; he always listened to your ideas and encourage initiative and innovation. He loved meeting his clients and he ‘worked the room' – whether the restaurant during a busy service or the lobby in the morning and evening rush – with consummate skill. I learned an enormous amount from working with him and his generosity towards me – as it was to many others - in sharing his knowledge, experience and skill was extraordinary."
Harry Murray, the 1986 Hotelier of the Year, described Jones as his "friend and mentor and inspiration for 40 years" who gave him his first job as an apprentice chef at the Midland hotel in 1957. "Ron had that rare ability of making you feel you were the only person in the room. He was a giant in the hospitality industry and a consummate hotelier, who was always available to support and care for his staff and his guests. I am so deeply saddened by his passing and my thoughts are with his wife Eve and his two sons at this time."
Paul Jackson, the current general manager at Claridge's, said he was fortunate to have known Jones both professionally and personally. "I had the pleasure and privilege of working at Claridge's during Ronald's tenure as director and general manager and then when I returned to the hotel as general manager, I was able to reacquaint myself with him on a personal level. He was an inspirational hotelier and a mentor during my early career, whose style and approach I have always tried to emulate. I know all the team here at Claridge's join me in sending their deepest condolences to Eve and his family."
Jones leaves behind his wife Eve, sons Graham and Russell and four granddaughters.
Ronald Jones, 16 February 1926-22 November 2021
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