Luxury hotel group Von Essen, which owns 28 hotels including some of Britain’s finest castles, has gone into administration with debts of more than £250 million.
The group, founded in 1996 by its chairman Andrew Davis, is also understood to have breached a covenant governing the earnings after experiencing tough trading in recent months as the UK hospitality market continues to struggle.
Alan Bloom, Chris Marsden and Angela Swarbrick from Ernst & Young have been appointed as joint administrators.
The hotels themselves are not in administration and will continue to trade as usual.
Angela Swarbrick from Ernst & Young said: “It is business as normal for the hotels and customers of Von Essen Hotels can continue to enjoy their stay.
The group’s portfolio features some of Britain’s finest castles and mansions, including Cliveden, the country house on the banks of the Thames in Berkshire that has been home to an earl, two dukes, several viscounts and a Prince of Wales and provided the backdrop to much of the infamous Profumo affair.
Other properties include Ston Easton Park, a Palladian mansion in Somerset, the Royal Crescent in Bath and Amberley Castle, a 900-year-old castle in West Sussex.
Thornbury Castle near Bristol and the Ickworth Hotel, in the east wing of the Suffolk historic house where the 7th Marquess of Bristol squandered the family fortune on drinks and drugs, also form part of the portfolio.
The company’s collapse follows attempts by Mr Davis to attract new investors to cut its debts and assist his ambitious expansion plans. Potential names banded around included Peter de Savary, the Mittal Steel dynasty, Turkey’s Sabanci family and the Qatari ruling family.
The group’s 2010 accounts, which exclude three separately financed hotels, the London Heliport in Battersea and his helicopter and private jet businesses, show that it made an operating profit, before depreciation, of £25 million from turnover of £74.2 million.