By Dominic Walsh
A decision on the future of Brocket Hall, the residential conference and leisure venue at Welwyn, Hertfordshire, is expected within a month.
Leading the pack of bidders are CCA Group, the Hong Kong-based parent of the London Capital Club, and Cliveden, the stately home-um-hotel at Taplow, Buckinghamshire, controlled by John Tham and John Lewis.
Bidders have been lining up for Brocket Hall since the business got into financial difficulties during the recession, though in July it appeared the Midland Bank might refinance its £15m-plus debts.
At that time, Tesco chairman Sir Ian MacLaurin was appointed non-executive chairman to oversee the reconstruction of the business, but it is understood he is unhappy with the situation and no longer wishes to be involved.
As a result, Cliveden has revived its interest and, according to managing director John Tham, continues to "study the position very carefully", though it is not known what he is prepared to pay.
On the part of CCA Group there is no uncertainty, however. On a visit to the UK last week, CCA chairman Dieter Klostermann confirmed to Caterer that he had offered £7m for Brocket Hall.
"We have put in a bid which is being considered," he said. "There are other parties, but our offer is on the table and we are ready to complete."
He said the offer did not involve taking on the business's debts, though he expected to have to spend at least another £2m refurbishing the 46-bedroom hall and doing some work to the golf course.
He added that Lord Brocket, the peer facing charges relating to an insurance fraud, might have "some kind of advisory role" if CCA's bid succeeded.
CCA Group, which will turn over about US$200m (£127m) this year, has 14 golf clubs in the Asia-Pacific region. Next year it plans to open seven golf and athletic clubs.
In addition to eyeing Brocket Hall, Mr Klostermann is negotiating to buy a site in London for development as a boutique hotel with about 50 bedrooms and a dining club.