Chairman of Alternative Hotel Group (AHG), which includes De Vere Venues, Malmaison Richard Balfour-Lynn, predicts operating profits will beat last year’s figure of £120m and remains bullish for the future.
“Sales and marketing is one of the areas we have expanded, whereas most people are cutting,” he told The Times in a two-page interview, 20 April.
AHG was formed in 2005 after the £325m purchase of Initial Style Conferences. This was followed by the takeover of De Vere Group shortly afterwards.
The group comprises six distinct businesses, with the three biggest being De Vere Collection, a chain of 12 luxury hotels; Village Hotels, a three-star concept; and De Vere Venues, the residential conference and training centre operator spawned from Initial.
Far from the conference business looking vulnerable, Balfour-Lynn believes that the £350m investment programme has left it with a big advantage over the competition.
“The product has been repositioned. These businesses were very tired when we bought them. Their systems were poor. We’ve transformed them.”
The transformation has been painful for some, however, with 500 job losses being made at AHG.
“In today’s world, you’ve got to be hugely more proactive by driving revenue, cutting costs and running a tighter ship,” said Balfour-Lynne.
The Times noted, however, that some disgruntled former employees are claiming AHG is in disarray trying to keep its head above water, as it struggles under the weight of a £1.5 billion debt mountain supplied by HBOS.