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NXG PR OFILE


“They settled in Scotland and, like many other Italian


immigrants to the UK, they ended up in restaurants and catering with delicatessens, cafes or ice cream shops,” Forte says. “My grandfather started in that same way. He worked in


his father’s café in Weston-Super-Mare and then he became the manager at 21 of the Venetian lounge in Brighton, which was owned by one of his cousins. “That was his first big experience of hospitality. From


there he grew a very different type of business to what we have today, starting with a milk bar on Regent Street, which he opened at 26, and then adding motorway service stations, Little Chefs, catering and hotels all along the way,” she recalls. The Forte portfolio expanded to more than 800 hotels


and had a wide range within, from Travelodges and airport hotels to the luxury Hotel George V in Paris and the Grosvenor House in London. “My father grew up very much in that business, his first


job was aged 14 in the wine cellars of the Café Royal,” Forte says. “He has passed on to me what he


learnt from his father and what his father learnt from his. So it has been very lucky to have that experience.” Lydia says while Forte Group became


a large public company, her father and grandfather possessed a small number of shares at its peak. The family faced a hostile and traumatic takeover bid from entertainment giant Granada in 1995. “So my father started again,”


“ Checking in


The family’s second act is Rocco Forte Hotels, a group of 11 luxury hotels including Brown’s in London, the Balmoral in Edinburgh, and the Astoria in St Petersburg. It has properties in Italy, Germany, Belgium, and Saudi Arabia, in addition to three new hotels in Rome, Puglia, and Shanghai to open in 2019. It posted annual revenues of £207 million ($267 million)


in 2018, a 7% rise on 2017. Italian investment bank CDP paid £60 million ($77 million) in 2014 for a 23% stake, valuing the group at more than £260 million ($335 million). Lydia’s Bournemouth-born and Oxford-educated father, now Sir Rocco Forte (73), is group chairman. Her aunt


44 CAMPDENFB.COM


Olga (72) is deputy chairwoman and director of design, while managing two boutique hotels of her own, the Endsleigh in Devon and Tresanton in Cornwall. “I think it is part of the strength of the business that


everyone has their own perspective and, with being close family, you are not afraid to voice those perspectives,” Lydia says. “Everyone has a different idea. [There are] different


generations, boys, girls, different passions and interests. It makes for lively debate.” Lydia’s younger sister Irene is group project manager and


responsible for spas and also training and development. Their younger brother Charles started two years ago and is working in the development team. “It was a given that me and my brother and my sister


would appreciate and respect hospitality and the value of the industry because it is something we grew up with and heard about over Sunday lunches at my grandfather’s house,” Lydia says.


“I grew up with stories of people who


I grew up with stories of people who had worked for my grandfather or had stayed in one of his hotels


Lydia explains. “That experience very much informed what he has built


now, which is something much more focused on luxury. This is an area where he had an edge because he knew about it and understood the customer. Much smaller and fully owned, he was really anxious not to give too much of it away.”


had worked for my grandfather or had stayed in one of his hotels. And even though I was quite young when he passed away, I still had a very strong sense of what he had given and done and that was something that was really instilled in us. “My father was really clever not to


push any of us into it. He just let us get on with our own thing and so I went into restaurants because it is something that interested me after university.” After school, Lydia completed a


professional cookery course at Leith’s, a


four-month rotating internship at the Astoria, and spent time in sales and marketing at Brown’s. While studying modern history at Oxford University, Lydia trained as a maître d’hôtel at the Wolseley café-restaurant in London. In 2010, she worked as a waitress at HIX Soho restaurant. She worked her way up, without colleagues paying much attention to her surname, through front of house operations in the restaurant industry, completing tenures in restaurant accounting and reservations. The multi-lingual next-generation hotelier then


completed an MBA at INSEAD in 2013. Before starting work for Rocco Forte Hotels full-time in 2014, Lydia managed a new restaurant opening in Chelsea, the Markham Inn, and led projects to update and improve two restaurants—HIX Mayfair in London and Bocconi in Brussels. Forte’s advice to the next generation contemplating a


move into the family business is to gain experience outside and not to worry about the time taken to do so. “It is very important to have a focus and to really build a wealth of knowledge around that focus and that direction,


ISSUE 74 | 2018


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