View From City Road: Forte will still be waiting

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The Independent Online
Sir Ewen Fergusson, a smooth and well connected former diplomat who chairs Coutts, the NatWest subsidiary for posh people, is no doubt a good man to keep the Savoy's warring factions apart. Ramon Pajares, the hotel manager from Barcelona tipped to succeed Giles Shepard as managing director, would also plainly be a catch for the Savoy. At the top of his trade, he is definitely not from the Manuel school of catering.

But the compromise boardroom reshuffle ratified yesterday after much posturing over the past 10 days is nevertheless another unsatisfactory stage in a soap opera that beats Lonrho for longevity.

The Savoy was given a reasonable chance under Mr Shepard to put its house in order as an independent group. It failed, demonstrating only too well Mr Shepard's apparent belief that the classiest hotels are not in business simply to make money.

Now we have a second attempt to restore the group's fortunes as an independent, with Rocco Forte sliding a little closer to executive power, through membership of the management committee.

It might just work, given that the biggest obstacle to change, Mr Shepard, has left. But this is a company weakened by years of lacklustre financial performance and poor marketing. It will be an uphill struggle.

The Savoy trusts are soon likely to regret spurning plans for a joint company with Forte's upmarket hotels that provided a real prospect of improvement. If and when this new attempt at independence fails, Forte will still be waiting.