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Basset considers allsorts

"We always said we wanted to sell at some stage, but we didn’t intend to sell so early," says Basset.

"YOU CAN’T ever know what the future is made of," said co-founder Gérard Basset following the sale of the Hotel du Vin chain last month.  "There’s a bit of nostalgia for us. Of course, it’s our baby, we created it.

On one hand it’s a bit sad to sell it.  But it was a good opportunity, and we took it." Marylebone Warwick Balfour (MWB), owners of the Malmaison chain, last month acquired the Hotel du Vin for £66.4 million.

"We always said we wanted to sell at some stage, but we didn’t intend to sell so early," says Basset.  "We said we were going to sell when we were all 50; well we’ll be 50 in 3 years time! We had a few offers two or three years ago, but we weren’t really that keen to sell and the price wasn’t right, but then somebody came with a price that was very fair and we thought ‘Why not?’"

The deal was signed in October on the 10th anniversary of the creation of the chain.  "When we started in 1994 the economy was doing well and the concept was right.  And there’s no reason why it shouldn’t carry on being a success, but you just don’t know.

You never can tell what could happen with the economy," says Basset.  As we all know, mergers and acquisitions are not infrequent in the wine and hospitality sectors.  "The drinks industry is a tricky market. Malmaison started at the same time as us in ‘94 but they’ve changed hands two or three times, I think, so it’s not something unusual," says Basset.

Co-founder Robin Hutson will be staying on to oversee the opening of the new Henley-on-Thames site next March, and Basset will remain involved on a parttime basis.  "I’m going to be doing two or three days a week, not so much as a consultant but running the wine school and wine events and dinners," he comments.  "But I won’t have anything else to do with the hotel."

However, the sale was amicable so there may be further conversations in the future.  "It’s been a very friendly takeover," says Basset.  "They’re nice people, and there’s no reason why they won’t ask my advice from time to time."

What’s next for Basset? He recenty collected the On- Trade Personality of the Year Award at the French Wine Awards for Excellence, and the prestigious silver medal at the World’s Best Sommelier Competition (see page 84) in Athens. "I want to stay very much involved with the sommelier side.

I’ve obviously done a lot of that and I’m becoming President of the Court of Master Sommeliers worldwide next month."  It is reported that MWB intend to run the Malmaison and HdV chains separately, and no job losses are forecast.

Basset will consider starting a new business venture next

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