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Real Hotels, CHE Group and Friendly Hotels in the UK

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Real Hotels, CHE Group and Friendly Hotels in the UK

1877 – 2009 RiP.

Whatever happened to Friendly Hotels, Choice Hotels Europe, CHE Group and the Real Hotel Company? The company was a not insignificant PLC that owned many hotels in the UK and Europe and managed a significant number of Hotels on behalf of owners and investment funds.

Well we will do our best here to tell you what happened to the individual hotels under their control, provide the ability (where possible) to make reservations and give you a very potted history of the various names the company traded under.

Back at the dawn of time (well 1877) there was a small group of hotels called the Cobden and Arden Group in Edgbaston Birmingham. The original hotels were the Arden Hotel, the Cobden Hotel and the Norfolk Hotel and the group traded successfully for over a hundred years although at some time during this period the Arden Hotel was sold off for redevelopment. The Cobden and Arden Group (the Cobden Hotel and the Norfolk Hotel) were eventually purchased by Henry Edwards (a successful hotelier) in 1985 and in 1986 the company was renamed Friendly Hotels PLC and successfully floated on the London Stock Exchange.

Over the following years more hotels were added to the group and in 1996 Friendly Hotels acquired the UK and Ireland Master Franchise from Choice Hotels International and set about re-branding the hotels as either Comfort Inns or Quality Hotels (two and three star brands respectively).

In 1998 Friendly Hotels acquired the master franchise to develop the Comfort, Quality, Clarion and Sleep Inn brands across Continental Europe (excluding Scandinavia) from Choice Hotels International. Choice Hotels International also took a substantive holding in the company which continued to trade as Friendly Hotels, but marketed themselves as Choice Hotels Europe until 2001.

At this point Friendly Hotels changed their name to CHE Group to try and show more of a synergy with Choice Hotels International who in spite of their holdings in Friendly Hotels would not let them use Choice in the company name. Choice Hotels International were always somewhat embarrassed that there was already a Choice Hotels in the UK operating a small group of hotels in Blackpool.

The two companies (Choice Hotels International and CHE Group) had a very rocky relationship, due mostly to the Americans being clueless about Europe and hard times in the hotel industry causing a lack of funds for refurbishments. In 2001 Choice Hotels International tried unsuccessfully to sell their stake in the company and in early 2002 they relinquished their entire shareholding and were rewarded in the USA with a $28m tax-break.

In 2002 CHE Group launched the Sleep Inn Brand in the UK (under the Franchise with Choice Hotels International) and over the coming years more Sleep Inns were opened.

The rocky relationship with Choice Hotels International continued and with the lack of money for refurbishments this culminated in 2004 with several ‘tired’ hotels being dropped out of the Choice Brands to be re-branded as Stop Inns. Stop Inns was a brand name that had been setup by Friendly Hotels in the early nineties that had been superseded by the Quality and Comfort Brands from Choice.

During the time of the CHE Group there were a number of board changes which culminated in a lot of eccentricity at senior levels and in 2007 the company again changed its name, this time to The Real Hotel Company, launching a new brand of hotels called Purple Hotels and entering into an agreement to relinquish the Master Franchise with Choice Hotels International.

During 2008 the hotels operating as Sleep Inns were re-branded to the new Purple Hotel Brand, more hotels were switched to Stop Inns and several of the owned hotels were sold to raise funds.

Unfortunately it was not enough and in January 2009 the Real Hotel Company went into administration with the immediate closure of several hotels.

The following we believe to be the currant status of the hotels that were owned or managed at the time of the company’s sad demise:

Comfort, Quality, Clarion and Stop Inn Brands

Purple Hotel and Sleep Inn Brands

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Real Hotels, CHE Group and Friendly Hotels in the UK