Forte regains use of family name five years after Granada defeat

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The Independent Online

The Forte name was back in family hands yesterday, five years after one of the fiercest takeover battles in UK corporate history.

The name was returned to Lord Forte, the 92-year-old founder of the Forte empire and his son Sir Rocco at a ceremony at Lord Forte's house in Belgravia, central London.

It was handed back by Compass, the catering company which recently completed the sale of all the hotels which were acquired as part of Granada's £3.8bn hostile bid for Forte in 1996. Compass took on the hotels as part of its demerger from the Granada media group.

Original papers from Forte's formation and an engraved bowl were presented by the Compass chairman Francis Mackay and its chief executive, Michael Bailey.

Sir Rocco, 56, who now runs RF Hotels, said: "This gesture means a lot to my family as people will not be able to use our name to promote businesses in which we are not involved. It draws a line in an elegant way under the events of the takeover. I think my father was particularly pleased with it."

Lord Forte added: "I am very moved that Compass Group wanted to return our family name to me as a gesture of goodwill."

Sir Rocco said he had no immediate plans to use the name. "I've been trading as RF Hotels and that name is established. The Forte name covered different market segments whereas I'm concentrating on the luxury segment."

RF Hotels has seven hotels including locations in Edinburgh, Salford and Cardiff. Sir Rocco recently signed a £270m deal with Bank of Scotland to take the chain up to 20 hotels across Europe by 2006.

Sir Rocco was scathing about the Granada bid. He said: "You look at that takeover and what has it achieved? The business raised less for Granada than it cost to buy, so what was the purpose of it?"

Sir Rocco is keen to buy back some of the Forte hotels which have now been sold. He has held talks with Nomura, which bought the Meridien chain.

The Forte empire was founded by Lord Forte from a London milk bar in 1934. It expanded to become Britain's largest hotels and hospitality group. Sir Rocco took over in 1993 and was famously on a shooting break when Granada launched its bid.

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