Shaper: Nigel Champan

Show aired on 14th February 2015

Transcript

Nigel Chapman

Nigel Champan is the founder of Luxury Family Hotels. He was inspired by his experience staying at Ballymaloe House in Ireland and what he describes as a ‘continental’ approach to families, so the former accountant sold his house in London and moved to Woolley Grange – a Jacobean manor house on the edge of Bradford-on-Avon with his wife and three young children. Nigel launched Woolley Grange in 1989 which became 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, Nigel went on to build Luxury Family Hotels  – a successful group of historic properties with a child-friendly approach. comprising four hotels including Fowey Hall in Cornwall and Moonfleet Manor in Dorset.

In 2005, the group was sold to Andrew Davis, the founder of von Essen hotels, who made an offer of £30m for Luxury Family Hotels. 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.  Following that, 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.

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One day, I announced to my wife that I had made an offer on a manor house in Wiltshire and we were selling our house and moving in.

You have to have faith and a burning passion to make it work. If you haven’t got that then you are never going to be able to survive and you are never going to be able to find the money to carry on.

We had to make a go of it, we didn’t really have an option and that’s not a bad place to be when you are in business. Having your back against the wall sorts out the sheep from the goats.

The moment people walk in the door of the hotel and they realise that there are families chilling out with other kids running around, that’s the magic.

My wife was the one who drew the lines around my fantasy and turned it into reality. We try to create a home from home and that look and feel is something that comes from the heart.

Hospitality either turns you on or it doesn’t and if it doesn’t you shouldn’t be in the industry.

Having spent so many years building up a carefully chosen group of hotels which we were immensely proud of, it was a sad thing to part company because I felt that we had unfinished business.

We kept our eye on the company that bought us out and they got into difficulties and the hotels that they accumulated came back on to the market. We picked them back up again and are now working on our unfinished business.

People want to spend more time with their children than they used to.

You’ve got to be an optimist to make a success of any business otherwise how on earth can you pull everyone behind you?