Von Essen snaps up Sharrow Bay hotel
Wednesday 17th December 2003 12:08
Von Essen Hotels has bought the legendary Sharrow Bay hotel on Ullswater in the Lake District for more than the £5m asking price.
The acquisitive Von Essen has been pursuing the 26-bedroom Sharrow Bay since the summer. It has bought the hotel from Nigel Lightburn, who inherited it on the death of co-founder Brian Sack in 2002. Lightburn will stay on as a director and all staff will be retained.
Von Essen plans to spend a further £2m adding a spa and refurbishing the property. "We're delighted to have got hold of the best hotel in the Lakes and the first Relais & Chƒteaux property in England," said operations director Nicholas Romano. He added that Von Essen was also buying another property in the southern Lakes in a deal that was expected to go through early in 2004.
The Sharrow Bay purchase marks another coup in Von Essen's seemingly endless acquisition drive. The company is in discussions to spend more than £100m on a major London property, thought to be the Lanesborough. The 95-bedroom Lanesborough is currently owned by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and operated by St Regis Hotels & Resorts, part of the Starwood empire. It was on the market in 2001 for £120m but a potential sale stalled because of economic conditions following the events of 11 September.
Industry experts believe the Lanesborough could go for £110m in today's climate. The purchase would provide a logical link to Von Essen's Cliveden hotel in Taplow, Berkshire.
Von Essen is also in negotiations to buy the 21-bedroom Greenway hotel in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, in a deal expected to be completed soon.
The group has stated its intention to have 25 country house hotels and one London property by the end of 2004 and is well on the way to achieving its goal. Following the completion of all its expected acquisitions, it will own and operate 20 hotels. "We're a tenacious bunch and usually get there in the end," Romano said.
Sharrow Bay was Britain's first country house hotel, set up by Francis Coulson and Brian Sack in the 1950s. Agent Knight Frank acted for Sharrow Bay.
Von Essen is led by Andrew Davis with money from a family trust set up by his Austrian aunt, the Countess Von Essen. The company now employs 2,000 people.