People and business: Stakis farewell

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The Independent Online
NO WONDER Sir Reo Stakis, 85, wiped away a tear as he announced the takeover by Ladbroke. The hotel and casino group he founded in 1946 is set to be swallowed by Ladbroke's Hilton subsidiary. Suggested new names include "Lakis" and "Stilton".

Sir Reo arrived in Britain from his native Cyprus in 1928, aged just 15, with pounds 50 and two suitcases full of lace.

His big break came in Glasgow in 1952 when he bought his first restaurant. Shortly afterwards he opened his first steakhouse. This is when the legend that he "singlehandedly changed Scotland's eating habits" was born.

He went on to open Glasgow's first nightclub and Scotland's first casino.

But hubris struck in the 1980s - as with so many other entrepreneurs. Sir Reo made his son Andros Stakis chief executive, and the lad embarked on an ambitious expansion into commercial property, pubs, discos and nursing homes.

When the crash came in 1990 Stakis almost went bust. Sir Reo stepped aside as chairman in March 1991 in favour of Sir Lewis Robertson, a company doctor. Sir Lewis's first act was to replace Andros with David Michels from Hilton, who became his right-hand man. They proceeded to sell off the 1980s acquisitions and Stakis recovered, growing from a value of pounds 70m in 1992 to pounds 1.2bn today. Sir Reo still receives a pounds 240,000 pension from Stakis as life president.

As for Sir Reo's changing the eating habits of the Glaswegians, George Westwell, general manager of the London Metropole, explained last October: "He taught them to use a knife and fork."