That man Guy Hands has been filling a few column inches in the media recently - not only in this magazine as a result of the Arena Savoy Lecture (Caterer, 8 February, page 22), but in the national press as well. He's a busy man, a powerful figure in the hospitality industry, and he's making his voice heard.
Hands is at the helm of the international Nomura Principal Finance Group, which packs quite a punch when it comes to acquisitions. At the beginning of the year Nomura bought Principal Hotels for £255m. Last week it snapped up 988 unbranded pubs from Bass (for a mere £625m). And next month, who knows? It could turn out to be the new owner of Forte Hotels. The top bidder in the auction for this group, which includes Posthouse and Le Méridien properties, can expect to pay in the region of £3.5b.
That's big money in anyone's back alley, let alone the UK hotel market, and so Hands has a right to make a point or two about what's good and bad for the industry.
Reports of his Savoy lecture highlighted Hands's censure of the UK Government for not taking hospitality seriously. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) should be representing the industry, he said.
This view is now becoming a popular chant among the chattering classes, and it obviously strikes a chord with those in hospitality who feel hurt by a perceived lack of recognition.
Another point that Hands made in his Savoy speech, however, is of equal importance but has been largely overlooked. He commented that the education system in this country (and, presumably, society as well) is obsessed with qualifications rather than original ideas or quality of learning. How true. The system becomes counterproductive when the emphasis of learning becomes the exam result at the end and not the learning itself.
Hands went to Oxford, that is true, but he says he experienced some difficulties - tutors couldn't read his essays and examiners couldn't read his final papers. Yet here he is, years later, at the very top of his profession, buying and selling with a skill that is the envy of his competitors.
In a sense, his two points of view are contradictory. On the one hand he is saying that the Government should take hospitality seriously by superficially "upgrading" its ministerial representation; on the other he is saying that hospitality, and those who contribute to it, should be judged on results.
To suggest that hospitality would be better off if represented by the DTI is to deny the consistent efforts of Chris Smith and Janet Anderson in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to understand the business. That attitude also assumes that ministers in the DTI will have the time and resources to give hospitality a higher priority. This would be unlikely. It is better sometimes to be a big fish in a smaller pond.
Guy Hands, man of the moment, has proved that it is flair, natural ability and confidence that achieves results, not academic paper qualifications. The industry should pay heed to this message. It should not become obsessed with academic recognition in Government circles, but concentrate on improving performance on the ground, where it counts. That will gain it all the recognition that it requires.