“If you lose your good name, you lose everything,” warned Olga Polizzi on last night’s episode of Capital Conversation. The Director of Design of Rocco Forte Hotels was joined by her brother and colleague, Sir Rocco Forte, to discuss running a family business, inviting investors in and the London look.
The hotel business runs in the duo’s blood. Their father Charles Forte established the Forte Group in the 1950s, which he grew into a multibillion-pound hotel, catering and restaurant business before its sale in 1996.
Sir Rocco served as CEO of the group, telling Michael Hayman he shared many of his father’s values but regretted that he was reluctant to give the young Rocco enough responsibility, “[because of that] I’ve tried to give my children responsibility earlier on.”
Following a corporate takeover in 1996, Sir Rocco and Olga left the Forte Group but have since teamed up to build the successor business, Rocco Forte Hotels.
There are 11 Rocco Forte Hotels, in cities including London, Florence, St Petersburg and Jeddah. The vision behind each one, explained Olga, is “to create somewhere better than home.” She confessed she’s a ‘terrible buyer’ because of her propensity to shop and is eternally glad she has hotels to buy for.
Fondo Strategico Italiano, the Italian sovereign wealth fund, bought 23% of the hotel group in 2014. The investment has given the business added structure, said Sir Rocco, “[the fund] helps the business find its way but it has not changed our culture.”
So, how do the brother and sister avoid any family fallout? “He does his bit and I do mine. Then sometimes it comes together,” explained Olga. “We usually agree with each other. Now and again we don’t but he’s the boss and he has the last word.”
When asked for their views on the capital’s future, Sir Rocco was frank, “If we have Mr Corbyn in tomorrow, London might disintegrate. There could be an exodus of people from this country.”
Yet, for now, the duo said they would choose nowhere but London to call home. In fact, Sir Rocco revealed he would jump at the opportunity to open a second hotel in the capital – but the right one has not come along yet. Watch this space.
You can view the full episode here.