14th February: Nigel Champan

This week Nigel Chapman joins Elliot Moss.

Nigel Champan is the founder of Luxury Family Hotels. It all started when Nigel Chapman launched Woolley Grange in May 1989 -  It reinvented the English country hotel.  He was inspired by his experience staying at Ballymaloe House in Ireland and what he describes as a ‘continental’ approach to families. The former accountant decided to sell his house in London and uproot his wife and three young children to Woolley Grange – a Jacobean manor house on the edge of Bradford-on-Avon, which became the family home and his entry point into the hotel business.

With his partner, Nicholas Dickson, formerly of Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons and Chewton Glen, Chapman went on to build Luxury Family Hotels  - a successful group of historic properties  with a uniquely child-friendly approach comprising four hotels including Fowey Hall in Cornwall and Moonfleet Manor in Dorset.

Fast forward 16 years and Andrew Davis, the founder of von Essen hotels, made an offer of £30m for Luxury Family Hotels which was deemed too good to resist by its shareholders and the group was sold in 2005.

With the luxury hotel business still close to their heart, Nigel and Nicholas took the family-friendly luxury blueprint to Europe and launched Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel in 2010 with partners Chitra and Roman Stern.  (Located in the Western Algarve, Martinhal comprises of a 38-bedroom hotel with an additional 132 self-catering houses and a full range of resort facilities).

In 2010, Nigel then returned to Cornwall where he had set up a family home and created a new company, Halcyon Hotels and Resorts. His first acquisition was the Polurrian Bay Hotel – a well established seaside hotel dating back to 1890, set amongst 12 acres of landscaped gardens on the Cornish coast.

In early 2011 Von Essen imploded under the weight of its £250m debts and Chapman had the opportunity to re-acquire the properties, with the backing of Patron Capital, the majority stakeholder.

At the end of 2011, Halcyon re-acquired the four properties sold in 2006 as well as three acquired in the von Essen years: New Park Manor in the New Forest; Thornbury Castle north of Bristol; and The Elms in Worcestershire.  2015 he has big plans and continues to reinvent the idea of luxury family holidays.