Focus on World Family Business Leaders | Rocco Forte

This week the Family Business Office, for its eight edition of Focus On World Business Leaders, brings you Rocco Forte, the brains and chairman of the luxury brand hotels Rocco Forte Collection. Forte took over the family business from his father as CEO of the Forte Group in 1992.

Born in Bournemouth, the son of Charles Forte, Baron Forte, and his wife Irene, Rocco was educated at St Peter’s Catholic School, Southbourne and Downside School.

He qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1969, later becoming a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in 1979.

At the head of Rocco Forte Hotels are Sir Rocco Forte, his sister Olga Polizzi, and his children Lydia, Irene and Charles.

In the mid-1990s, the Forte Group was faced with a hostile takeover bid from Gerry Robinson‘s Granada. Ultimately, Granada succeeded with a £3.87 billion tender offer in August 1995 that left the family with around £350 million in cash.

In 2001, following the de-merger of Compass Group from Granada’s media interests, the use of the Forte trademark was returned to Forte in a gesture intended to dispel the bitter legacy of the takeover.

After the takeover, Forte set up his own chain of hotels in 1996, initially known as RF Hotels and re-branded as The Rocco Forte Collection after the return of the Forte brand name. He bought the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh and Brown’s Hotel in London for £51.5m. As of April 2013, The Rocco Forte Collection operates eleven hotels in Europe, Russia, northern Africa and the Middle East.

Forte’s family wealth in 2013 was recorded at £250 million.

A veteran of the hospitality industry, Sir Rocco joined Forte Plc in 1969, becoming CEO in 1983 and Chairman in 1992, when he succeeded his father Lord (Charles) Forte, who founded the company in 1934. During his time at Forte, Sir Rocco had responsibility for more than 800 hotels, 1,000 restaurants and almost 100,000 employees in 50 countries around the world. As Chairman, Sir Rocco Forte significantly expanded the overseas operations of the company, with the acquisition of the Meridien Hotel Group from Air France and further transformed Forte from a UK operation to a multi-million pound business and global entity, encompassing several businesses and hotel brands, including notable iconic properties such as Hotel George V in Paris, Sandy Lane in Barbados, Hotel Ritz in Madrid and Hôtel Plaza Athénée in New York. Forte Plc was sold in 1996 following a hostile take-over bid and has since been broken up.

Sir Rocco was knighted in December 1994 for services to the UK tourism industry and received the highest Italian accolade, the Gran Croce dell’Ordine al Merito della Republicca Italiana, for his entrepreneurial merits and strong links with Italy in March 2005. From 1991-1996, he was President of the British Hospitality Association (the main trade body for the UK hotel and catering industry) and has also been an active member of the Executive Committee of the World Travel & Tourism Council.

( Reference material obtained from The Times Rich List 2013, Rocco Forte Hotels Philosophy )

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