The word was that Elliot Bernerd, who bought Wentworth for pounds 19m, a snip in 1989, had lost a few bob on a deal in Russia and was looking to replenish the coffers. Absolute nonsense, said Willy, who added: "This will always be a golf and country club. Nobody's going to come in and turn it into a supermarket." However, Willy admitted the bottom line is "everything is for sale".
To emphasise the point, he recounted a tale when he was manager of the Hyde Park Hotel, the flagship of the Forte Group. "There were rumours that it was being sold. I went to see Lord Forte, the chairman, and he emphasised that the very notion of selling his pride and joy was out of the question. A few months later I was approached by a man who wanted to make a serious bid for the hotel. I told him it was a waste of time. He said I would be very unwise not to put the offer on the table. Lord Forte spat me out again and asked me if I had a short memory. As I left his office he said: `How much is the offer worth?' So if you know anybody who wants to buy Wentworth for pounds 200m let me know."