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Charles Forte


(Lord Forte)

1908 - 2007

Hotelier and entrepreneur. Born in Italy, Forte immigrated to Scotland with his family at the age of three, settling in Alloa, where he was educated at the Academy and then St Joseph's College, Dumfries. He worked in his father's cafe chain, expanding this into a diverse catering and hotel business. He opened his first milk bar in London in 1934 and this had grown to a chain of eight by 1940. Forte won the catering contract for the Festival of Britain in 1951, bought the Cafe Royal four years later and, in 1959, became operator of the first British motorway service station at Newport Pagnell on the M1.

Through mergers and expansion, he built the Forte group into a multi-billion pound business, comprising 940 hotels and 600 restaurants. These included the Little Chef and Happy Eater roadside restaurants and Crest, Forte Grand, Travelodge and Posthouse hotels. Forte served as Group Chief Executive (1971-8) and wa appointed Chairman (1982).

After passing control to his son Rocco in 1992, the group was subject to a hostile take-over by rival Granada, netting the family £350 million. Rocco Forte has re-established a new hotel business based around some of Europe's top hotels, the first being the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh.

Forte was knighted in 1970 and raised to the peerage in 1982. He published his autobiography, Forte, in 1986. In 1992, he was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Strathclyde. He died in London.

While short in stature, he will be remembered as an honourable but highly successful businessman.


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