Rocco Forte Hotels is to take over Brown`s Hotel in the heart of London`s Mayfair. Unconditional contracts have been exchanged today for the £51.5m purchase of Brown`s Hotel Ltd, the main asset of which is the freehold of Brown`s Hotel.
The present owner of Brown`s Hotel is Hotels & Resorts (UK) Ltd, which is ultimately owned by Raffles Holdings Ltd. The purchaser is a consortium in which the principal shareholders are Sir Rocco Forte & Family plc and the Bank of Scotland Corporate Banking.
Bank of Scotland is supplying the debt for the transaction in addition to providing equity. It is already a joint venture partner with Rocco Forte Hotels at The Lowry Hotel in Manchester. The transaction will be complete on 3rd July 2003 when management will pass from Raffles International Limited to Rocco Forte Hotels.
Brown`s was purchased in 1968 by Trust House Hotels Ltd, which later became Forte plc, where it was part of the Exclusive Collection of luxury hotels. It passed to Granada plc following the hostile takeover of Forte plc in 1996 and was subsequently sold in 1997 to the present owner as a result of Granada`s breakup of the old Forte company.
Brown`s was first established in 1837 by former gentleman`s servant, James Brown, when he acquired four adjacent houses in Dover Street. In 1859 the hotel was bought by James John Ford who then extended it to include the St George`s Hotel on Albemarle Street, which backed on to the Dover Street property. The new hotel soon became renowned as a place guaranteed to ensure comfort, privacy and understated service for its high-class guests.
The hotel has hosted many famous names and events: Alexander Graham Bell made the world`s first telephone call from the hotel in 1876; it was the first hotel to have a lift installed; Rudyard Kipling wrote many of his works there, having first visited in 1892; Theodore Roosevelt stayed there prior to his second marriage in 1886 - and Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt later spent part of their honeymoon there in 1905. Queen Victoria visited the hotel as did other members of European royalty including King George of the Hellenes whilst he waited for the monarchy to be restored in Greece in 1935, and the Queen of the Netherlands. During the Second World War - in room 36 - the Dutch Government in exile declared war on Japan, an event which soon led to the occupation of the Dutch East Indies.
Today the hotel provides the following facilities: 118 bedrooms, including 10 suites; the award-winning 1837 Restaurant with private dining room for 10 people; The Library restaurant; The Drawing Room for afternoon tea; St George`s Bar; 7 function suites for up to 120 people; and a fitness centre.
Announcing the acquisition, Sir Rocco Forte said, “It is good to be back in London and particularly good to be back in Brown`s, which is a unique property with immense charm, providing an intimate atmosphere and a location in the heart of Mayfair. It is an excellent fit for the collection of individual hotels, such as the Hotel de Russie in Rome and the Astoria in St Petersburg, which form the Rocco Forte Hotels brand. My sister, Olga Polizzi, and her team are already working on plans for a major refurbishment and the addition of extra bedrooms and we intend to make Brown`s one of the top luxury hotels in London by the end of 2004.
“There are still long-serving employees from the old Forte company at Brown`s and I am looking forward to welcoming them and the other members of the team at the hotel into our new company in two weeks` time. I am particularly pleased to be working with our joint venture partners at the Bank of Scotland on this transaction. They have been outstanding partners since the day we bought our first hotel in 1997 and I am delighted that they should be a key part of this important transaction.”
Peter Cummings, Managing Director of Corporate Banking at the Bank of Scotland, commented, “this purchase of a prime freehold in Mayfair underlines our continued commitment to Rocco Forte Hotels and to the hotel sector in general. Rocco`s company has sustained an impressive performance through two difficult years for the industry and we hope that this purchase will be another step along the road of further developing his collection of luxury hotels in Europe through our partnership together.”
Brown`s becomes a sister property to the existing luxury hotels within the Rocco Forte collection in Brussels, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Florence, Manchester, Rome and St Petersburg.