There was then much sighing and wailing if you failed to leave a huge tip.
Word that the Savoy group of hotels has been sold – again – will be greeted with yet more wails from long-serving staffers – if any of them survived the various purges. The long period of ownership under Sir Hugh Wonter, with the Forte family as troublesome shareholders, seems like an era of blissful stability.
There is clearly a lot of money in Ireland. Derek Quinlan, the former tax inspector who fronted the £750m Savoy purchase, is just the latest example. Hotels are a favourite. Sandy Lane in Barbados, another ex-Forte pile, was snapped up by an Irish consortium including Manchester United shareholders John Magnier and JP McManus.
With fellow investor Dermot Desmond, they demolished Sandy Lane and rebuilt it at a reputed cost of £160m, leading some to wonder whether this was a charitable handout for the local building industry. It will take a lot of lunching by regular Michael Winner to balance the books.
For years, Irish business was fronted by men like Sir Anthony O’Reilly, the newspaper magnate, and Michael Smurfit, the cardboard box tycoon.
It is about time some fresh faces emerged.
The real interest with Quinlan is whether he will remain hands-off at the Savoy, Claridges, and the rest, or whether he will indulge in a little tinkering. That would give those troublesome attendants something to moan about.
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