Changes on the menu at Savoy: Departures unlikely to resolve Forte's battle for control

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The Independent Online
THE departure of Giles Shepard as managing director of the Savoy could lead to closer co-operation with Forte on management of the luxury hotel group. A speedy resolution of Forte's long-running battle for control of the Savoy is, however, unlikely, writes Heather Connon.

Mr Shepard is expected to announce his resignation before Tuesday's board meeting, although he was yesterday refusing to comment.

Sources close to the company expect this to lead to changes aimed at improving the Savoy's performance. One suggestion is the establishment of a management committee, including representatives of Forte, to run the group.

Forte has been courting the Savoy since 1981. It owns 68 per cent of the shares, but only 42 per cent of the voting rights because of the Savoy's complex share structure. Forte is believed to be making headway in its attempts to persuade the trustees to support its proposal to merge Savoy's hotels with Forte's luxury hotels, such as the Georges V in Paris and the Grosvenor House in London. It is likely to be hoping that a new management team will also be more sympathetic to its proposals.

The Savoy is also searching for a new chairman to replace Sir Anthony Tuke, who wants to retire. It is unlikely that successors for his or Mr Shepard's post will have been appointed by Tuesday's meeting.

Forte's efforts to gain control of the Savoy have been helped by the poor financial performance of the group, which made only pounds 725,000 profit before tax in 1993, a return on sales of less than 1 per cent.