Rocco bounces back with pounds 2.5bn hotels plan

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The Independent Online

The Forte family last night unveiled a radical proposal to buy back the upmarket hotels it lost to Granada, in a deal that could be worth pounds 2.5bn.

The dramatic announcement, which came after the market closed, would see Sir Rocco Forte and the Forte dynasty reclaim some of the world's best-known hotel properties, including the Grosvenor House in London and the George V in Paris.

Sir Rocco raised the plan at a meeting yesterday with Gerry Robinson, the chief executive of Granada, convened to discuss the handover of Forte following its defeat in a two-month, pounds 3.8bn battle. Granada has promised to sell Forte's Meridien, Exclusive and trophy hotels, to pay the pounds 2.5bn debt it took on to finance the takeover. It intends to keep the budget Travelodge chain and the mid-market Posthouse properties.

In a statement issued last night, Sir Rocco said: "I am leading a team working on a plan to purchase from Granada the hotel business of Forte other than Posthouses and Travelodge. My objective is to make a detailed proposal to Granada in coming weeks."

A spokesman for Forte said Sir Rocco and his family would use the pounds 300m proceeds from the sale of their own stake in Forte to Granada as equity in the new venture. The rest would come from debt. One analyst said the offer would be a highly leveraged buyout, reminiscent of the takeovers of the 1980s. "There will be a lot of debt to pay down if they pull this off."

No financing is yet in place, Forte conceded last night. But a spokesman said that "discussions about financing were encouraging". He added that the Forte family would seek a stock market listing in future if their audacious offer is accepted.

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