Essential Architecture-  London

Claridge's

architect

C. W. Stephens

location

Mayfair, central London. It is located at the corner of Brook Street and Davies Street.

date

1897

style

Edwardian

construction

brick with limestone trim

type

Hotel
 
  This drawing of the current version of Claridge's was published in 1897, the year before the reopening.
 
 
 
 

History

Claridge's is a traditional grand hotel which is said to have an aristocratic ambience and reputation for luxury and expense. Its extensive and old connections with royalty have led to it being referred to as an "extension to Buckingham Palace". It was founded in 1812 as Mivart's Hotel, located in a conventional London terraced house and grew by expanding into neighbouring houses. In 1854, the founder sold the hotel to a Mr and Mrs Claridge who owned a smaller hotel next door. They combined the two operations, and after trading for a time as "Mivart's at Claridge's", they settled on the current name. The reputation of the hotel was confirmed in 1860 when Empress Eugenie made an extended visit and entertained Queen Victoria at the hotel. Richard D'Oyly Carte, the theatrical impressario and founder of the rival Savoy Hotel, purchased Claridge's in 1894 and shortly afterwards demolished the old buildings and replaced them with the present ones. This was prompted by the need to install modern facilities such as lifts and en suite bathrooms. The new Claridge's opened in 1898. The hotel currently has 203 rooms and suites.

After the First World War, Claridge's flourished due to demand from aristocrats who no longer maintained a London house, and an extension was built in the 1920s. Peter II of Yugoslavia and his wife spent much of the Second World War in exile at Claridge's, and suite 212 was ceded by the United Kingdom to Yugoslavia for a single day (June 17, 1945) to allow their heir, Crown Prince Alexander, to be born on Yugoslav soil. In December 1951 West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer secretly met with World Jewish Congress president Nahum Goldmann at Claridge's to begin negotiations on German reprations to Jewish survivors of the Holocaust.

Well-known actors and entertainers who have used Claridge's include U2, Mariah Carey, Mick Jagger, and Brad Pitt. The hotel lobby and several guestrooms appear in the 2001 Stephen Poliakoff BBC television drama Perfect Strangers.

The main restaurant is run by the celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. Michelin starred Northern Irish chef Michael Deane started his career at the restaurant. Claridge's offers afternoon tea and has been endorsed by the Tea Guild.

Claridge's has two ground floor bars: a main bar and a cigar bar known as the Fumoir. A wide variety of drinks and cocktails are available here and a good stock of well-stored Cuban cigars is kept in each of the bar's humidors. The Smoking ban in England has caused the fumoir to stop selling cigars but it still serves a wide variety of Scotch, Bourbon, Tequila, and Brandy.

Claridge's is managed by the Maybourne Hotel Group, which also includes two other five-star luxury hotels, The Berkeley and The Connaught.



References
^ Christopher Long (1991-10-25). A Regal Bid Too Far?. Retrieved on 2006-12-15. “I was born on Yugoslav territory at Claridges Hotel in London, 1945, on June 17, and this was done in agreement with the British Government.”

New owners check in at London's best
April 7, 2004

Claridge's in London has a new owner.

Four of London's most famous hotels have been sold to an Irish investment group, which says it has booked in for the long term. Helena Keers reports.

Four of London's most exclusive hotels, the Savoy, the Berkeley, Claridge's and the Connaught, changed hands yesterday in a �750 million ($A1814 million) deal. Quinlan Private, an Irish-based property investment group led by chairman Derek Quinlan, defeated competition from Prince Alwaleed to buy them.

Yesterday Peter Donnelly, a partner at Quinlan, said: "I have stayed in three of the four properties but I can't comment on which I prefer. My chairman would cut my head off, as he completely disagrees and I don't want the doorman asking me why I like one and not the other."

US private equity owners Blackstone and Colony Capital confirmed Claridge's was for sale last October but then denied plans for further disposals.

"We looked at Claridge's but the price expectations meant it didn't look like good value to us," Mr Donnelly said. "Then we learnt from market sources that the entire group was in play and we flew over to talk to the owners."

Quinlan kickstarted talks in the first week of March and spent three weeks undergoing due diligence. The team flew into London last Thursday and signed the deal on Saturday morning, expecting to complete by May 8.

John Kukral, president of Blackstone real estate, said: "We felt they were a credible buyer." Blackstone and Colony bought the group from the Wontner family in 1998 for �551 million, which includes debt and a �6 million dividend paid to shareholders.

Since then, they have spent �60 million on refurbishments and sold the Lygon Arms in the Cotswolds for about �20 million. It is estimated that the two investment firms made �150 million from the disposal.

"We believe Blackstone haven't reaped the full benefits of the refurbishment, after the effects of foot and mouth and September 11," Mr Donnelly said.

Quinlan pledged to work with the existing management team of the Savoy Group while it said each hotel would retain its own identity.

I don't want the doorman asking me why I like one and not the other.
PETER DONNELLY, Quinlan partner
"Our normal exit strategy is to hold on for the long term, usually for 10 years - in fact, we sell very little," he said.

Quinlan's portfolio includes the recently acquired Four Seasons Hotels in Milan, Budapest and Prague. It has about 140 properties in its estate.

Quinlan looks set to follow the Wontner family, which held onto the group for 50 years.

Sir Hugh Wontner, who became chairman in 1948 and presided over the group until his death in 1993, fought off decades of takeover bids.

US hotelier Conrad Hilton made an offer in the 1940s and the multimillionaire property magnate Sir Charles Clore made a bid for the group in the 1950s. Other high-profile stalkers include Lord Matthews of Trafalgar House, Sir Maxwell Joseph of the Grand Metropolitan, and Lord Samuel of Land Securities.

The Savoy Group was also at the centre of a long-running bid battle between the Forte and Wontner families in the 1980s.

Lord Charles Forte, who spent his honeymoon in the Savoy, spent his last 15 years as chairman of the eponymous company he founded in a battle to control the Savoy Group. He launched a hostile bid in 1981 and owned almost 70 per cent of the shares but just 42 per cent of the voting shares.

Sir Hugh made no secret of his contempt for Lord Forte, the Italian-born immigrant who built his hotels empire from a chain of milk parlours. He once said "Italians make good hotel managers" and "I've known little Forte since he ran his milk bar".

In 1996, Forte hotels succumbed to a �3.9 billion hostile bid from Granada and two years later the Savoy Group was sold.

The Savoy takes its name from Count Peter of Savoy, who in 1246 was given land by the Thames. In 1889, Sir Richard D'Oyly Carte, founder of the Gilbert and Sullivan opera company, built and opened the hotel next to his Savoy Theatre. It boasted innovative "ascending rooms" or lifts.

Copyright The Age

links

Claridge's home page
Maybourne Hotels Group home page
Ground floor plan dated 1932
www.essential-architecture.com