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Top 100: Ken McCulloch, Dakota and Dakota Deluxe

19 April 2018 by
Top 100: Ken McCulloch, Dakota and Dakota Deluxe

Overall ranking: 83 (new entry)

Hotelier ranking: 16 (new entry)


Glaswegian Ken McCulloch is a pioneer of the boutique city centre hotel concept on both the small and large scale. Following the success of his standalone One Devonshire Gardens in Glasgow, he translated his vision to the chain format with Malmaison, which aimed to offer the same style at half the price. Currently he is overseeing the expansion of Dakota and Dakota Deluxe hotels.

What we think

Born in 1948, McCulloch left school at 16 to become a management trainee with British Transport Hotels and Stakis Hotels. At the age of 22, he was appointed to general manager roles in Kirkcaldy and Falkirk. By the time he was 30, he owned three restaurant/cocktail bar businesses in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

In July 1986, he opened the One Devonshire Gardens hotel in Glasgow, where from the outset his individualistic approach confounded the number-crunchers, who believed this and later projects would fail. One Devonshire Gardens broke all the rules by opening away from the city centre with just eight bedrooms, but its affordable, design-led format won McCulloch The Caterer's Hotelier of the Year award in 1993. He describes the accolade as his career high.

He went on to launch the first Malmaison in Glasgow, where the idea of putting CD players in the bedrooms also raised eyebrows. But the hotels, which offered five-star style at three-star prices, were an overnight success. He opened five Malmaisons before selling to US company Patriot Group in 1998. Three years later he also sold One Devonshire Gardens.

On moving to Monaco, McCulloch created the Columbus hotel in the principality with funding from former F1 racing driver David Coulthard and American property investor Peter Morris. Coulthard also invested in the first Dakota hotel in Nottingham in 2004. However, a falling out with his partners ended with the sale of both Columbus and the original Dakota. While McCulloch has remained friends with Coulthard, he describes the time as a "very dark period".

Other hotels launched by McCulloch include the Aviator hotel for TAG Aviation at Farnborough airport, and Brooklands hotel in Weybridge, Surrey.

McCulloch is now repeating his past successes with his current venture. Under the parent company of Unique Hotels, the first two Dakota hotels launched in Edinburgh and Glasgow are intended to offer style at a reasonable price. They have since been joined by upmarket sister brand Dakota Deluxe, with sites in Glasgow and Leeds. A 137-bedroom Dakota Deluxe is under construction at Manchester's Piccadilly Basin and expected to open in 2019, with further sites sought in Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge and Oxford. Dakota and Dakota Deluxe are designed by McCulloch's wife Amanda Rosa, a long-term collaborator on all his hotel projects.

McCulloch was awarded an honorary doctorate by Queen Margaret's University in Edinburgh in 2007, following his engagement with the university through annual internships and financial sponsorship. In 2015 he launched two student awards to reward commitment to the industry and support young talent.

A Master Innholder since 1994, McCulloch was presented with the Very Special Achievement accolade at the Scottish Style Awards earlier this month, highlighting an impact on the look and operating style of hotels that has gone far beyond his native Scotland.

Further information

Dakota Deluxe Manchester to open in 2019 >>

The Caterer Interview: Ken McCulloch >>

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