Tourism, Saudi Arabia's public fund takes over 49% of luxury hotels Rocco Forte

The extra-luxury hotels of the Rocco Forte Group will henceforth speak very Arabic: the Saudi Arabian public investment fund has in fact bought 49 percent of the shares of the group, which boasts hotels in half of Europe, including several in Italy.

The extra-luxury hotel chain Rocco Forte in half of Europe will also speak a little Arabic. In fact, a financial operation that began last spring ( Il Sole 24 Ore reported on it) is underway and is seeing its conclusion with the purchase by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign fund, Pif - Public Investment Found (a fund with estimated assets under management of more than $700 billion), of 49 percent of the company of Sir Rocco Forte, the Italo-Englishman (with dual citizenship, Italian and British) who has linked his name to classy and elegant hotellerie in major European cities with a total of 14 hotels and 20 resorts and villas totaling hospitality in over 1.500 rooms. Among these assets, the group also counts 42 gourmet bars and restaurants, naturally starred, that trace the style and clientele of the accommodations.

The Arabs are coming in but the founder will retain control with 51 percent of the shares, selling in fact would be relatives of the family in addition to Cdp-Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, which would total a capital gain of 200 million euros on the shares purchased in 2014 for 76 million euros (60 million pounds at the time). That was the state company’s first investment in the world of tourism (readers of Finestre sull’Arte know that Cdp is also in TH Group) with the aim, stated in the press release at the time, of “strengthening tourism in Italy”

The London-based Rocco Forte Hotels Ltd Group is one of the world’s leading operators in the management of five-star hotels, valued at €1.5 billion (and £300 million in annual revenues), and the negotiations lasted for months in which for a time it looked like Cdp would have to remain in the shareholding structure. The papers are said to be all ready and the signing is expected to take place any day now: the news was first reported by the daily newspaper la Repubblica on October 26, and on the 31st the signing was confirmed by the specialized website Boutique Hotel News.

The chain, in constant pursuit of detail, including the search for the perfect espresso coffee, can boast some of the best Italian hotels such as the Savoy in Florence, three properties in Rome (Hotel de Russie, Hotel de la Ville, Rocco Forte House), three in Sicily (Villa Igiea - that of the Florios of the Lions of Sicily, not to the Palermo restaurant is called Florio Restaurant-the Verdura Resort that also has golf courses, and Rocco Forte Private Villas), the Masseria Torre Maizza in Puglia, and the soon-to-open The Carlton in Milan.

Rocco Forte, appointed a baronet by the Queen of England in 1995, was the son of Sir Charles (appointed baron in 1981 and a member of the House of Lords), who was actually named Carmine and came to the United Kingdom from the province of Lazio. It was Charles who started what would later become the current hotel group.

“I attended Queen Elizabeth’s coronation,” he told The Courier last year, “watching the procession pass by from a window of the Criterion building, which my father owned, in Piccadilly Circus.” And then on the relationship with the English: “For the general public it was the restaurants that made them understand what the Italian atmosphere is: and then the footballers, who came to play here and showed how good they were. That changed the perception of Italians for the mass of English people. Italy is a brilliant country, with great possibilities: and instead it is held back by the system that governs it. As an Italian, I would like to see Italy be much more successful than it is.” And again: I have no desire to retire and do charity. As long as I have passion, ability and energy, I will continue to do what I do. As a tourist destination, Italy is unique. The market is not well developed, quality hotels are few and mostly run by families. The potential is high. Although we should focus on high-end tourism. We have cities like Venice with 33 million visitors who pay nothing, Florence is a bit of the same. It is true that everyone should have access to beauty, but in the end you have to invest to keep the facilities at a certain level, and if no one pays how do you do it?"

The fund that has acquired 49 percent of the company is chaired by prinicipe Mohammad bin Salman and is the financial vehicle with which the heir to the throne is carrying out the diversification of investments of the royal family, which bases its wealth on the oil fields. Choosing to hire national team coach Mancini, buying soccer clubs in Europe, entering the nautical sector with the April purchase of 33 percent of Azimut-Benetti or trying to bring the 2030 edition of the Expo to Riyadh represent ways to find centrality in the international geopolitical chessboard.

The PIF also plans to invest in tourism at home by putting resources of $110 billion into it as a function of creating a hospitality system, now claudicant, with a view to Riyadh’s hoped-for choice for the 2030 expo and the 2034 World Cup (England’s Newcastle team is owned by them). Already many shareholdings in a diverse world of sectors of Western companies: Uber, Disney, Satrbucks, Cisco, Pfizer, City Group, Bank of America, Eni, Total and others.

Photo: the Hotel de la Ville in Rome

Tourism, Saudi Arabia's public fund takes over 49% of luxury hotels Rocco Forte
Tourism, Saudi Arabia's public fund takes over 49% of luxury hotels Rocco Forte

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