Von Essen head office to close as chief executive finally departs

by Janet Harmer , Thursday 5th April 2012 12:26

Almost a year after Von Essen Hotels went into administration with debts of nearly £300m, 26 out of 28 of the company's properties which were put on the market have now been sold, with three hotels being disposed of in the past week.

Bath's Royal Crescent hotel, Seaham Hall in County Durham and Congham Hall in Norfolk (pictured) all now have new owners.

Meanwhile, the company's head office is in the process of being wound up and Charles Prew, the chief executive who was appointed just six weeks before the company went into administration on 20 April 2011, left the company on Friday.

The 45-bedroom Royal Crescent has become the second most expensive hotel to be sold from the Von Essen portfolio with its acquisition by private international investment company the Topland Group for a rumoured £18m off an original guide price of £22.5m.

Only the 41-bedroom Cliveden, which was sold in January to Ian and Richard Livingstone, has achieved a higher price - nearly £30m off a guide price of £35m for a long lease from the National Trust.

Topland, which already owns the 340-bedroom Metropole hotel in Brighton and the 319-bedroom Hilton Glasgow, has appointed Vision Asset Management to manage the hotel's day-to-day operations.

Bristol-based Seasons Holidays, which owns five holiday resorts in the UK and the County hotel, a members-only property in Bath, has acquired the 20-bedroom Seaham Hall for the slashed-down price of less than £5m. The hotel had originally been put on the market for £12.5m, but its price was reduced after it failed to sell.

Managing director of Seasons Holidays Barry Donaghey said the company intended to take steps to ensure the hotel was a top destinations at a regional, national and international level.

"We have some ambitious plans and will be announcing these over the next few weeks and months," he said.

Seasons Holidays will immediately invest more than £500,000 in updating the hotel and extensive spa and has appointed Vaughan Kennedy as general manager.

Also sold in the past week is the 26-bedroom Congham Hall, which has been acquired by one of the original founders of Luxury Family Hotels (LFH), Nicholas Dickinson, who spent the six years since he and his business partner Nigel Chapman sold LFH to Von Essen opening the Martinhal Beach Resort and hotel in Portugal, with Chapman.

Chapman intends Congham Hall, which was sold off a guide price of £2.5m, to be the first of several hotels in the UK.

His immediate plan is to complete an extension, comprising 12 new bedrooms and a spa, which was started before Von Essen went into administration, and later in the year to add a new bistro to complement the hotel's fine-dining restaurant.

Sharrow Bay in Cumbria and Ston Easton Park in Somerset are now the only two Von Essen hotels yet to be sold. Both properties are being marketed by Christie & Co.

Seaham Hall sold to Seasons Holidays for slashed-down price >>

Congham Hall sold to experienced hotelier Nicholas Dickinson

Royal Crescent in Bath is latest Von Essen hotel to be sold >>

The top five news stories of 2011 >>

By Janet Harmer


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