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Management changes bring peace at Savoy: Sir Ewen Fergusson named new chairman of hotel group

A TRUCE was struck yesterday between the warring factions at the Savoy group of hotels through two boardroom appointments, one permanent and one temporary, and the formation of a cross-party management committee.

Sir Ewen Fergusson, former ambassador to Paris, becomes chairman of the Savoy, succeeding Sir Anthony Tuke, who will retire at the end of the year.

Martin Radcliffe, already on the board, has been appointed acting managing director until a replacement is found for Giles Shepard, who was this week asked to resign following a unilateral, public attack on Sir Michael Richardson, a non-executive director. Mr Shepard accused Sir Michael of leaking confidential information.

Observers of the long-running saga said that yesterday's announcement pointed to a management victory for Forte, the rival hotel company that has a significant equity stake in the Savoy, owner of some of Britain's best- known hotels.

Speculation about who will become managing director mainly favours Ramon Pajares, a hotelier who has worked for the Four Seasons chain. He is understood to be considering a formal offer, made by the Savoy and acceptable to Forte.

A spokeswoman for Forte, which has long had designs on acquiring the industry's prime assets, said it agreed to sanction the appointments at yesterday's board meeting.

'We are happy with the whole board agreement. We feel progress has been made,' she said.

Forte owns more than 60 per cent of the Savoy's equity but, because of the two-tier share structure, controls only 42 per cent of the votes.

Rocco Forte, chairman, and Donald Main, a fellow director at Forte, were at the Savoy meeting.

Besides yesterday's appointments, the Savoy board decided to form a three-strong chairman's committee to work closely with the new managing director. The members are Sir Ewen, Mr Forte and John Sinclair, who presides over three Savoy trusts controlling more than 30 per cent of the votes.

Forte and the Savoy trusts have also terminated talks that Forte hoped could have led to the formation of a joint-venture company. It would have incorporated some of Forte's 'Exclusive' chain of hotels, which includes the Grosvenor House and Hyde Park hotels, and the Savoy group, which includes Claridge's and the Berkeley.

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