Principal – a name that has existed in the UK hotel sector for more than 30 years – is to be the moniker of the new urban lifestyle hotel brand being created by American private investment firm Starwood Capital. The new brand is expected to number around 12 hotels by 2018.
More than £100m is being pumped into Principal, which will be officially launched on 1 November, following an investment of more than £100m into a collection of iconic city centre properties.
The new brand is expected to number around 12 hotels by 2018. It will launch with three properties – the 240-bedroom Principal Edinburgh George Street (pictured – previously the George hotel), 275-bedroom Principal Manchester (Palace hotel) and 155-bedroom Principal York (Royal York).
Principal will sit alongside sister brand De Vere, which will be focused on country house properties, mixing leisure and conference facilities. De Vere includes the likes of the 112-bedroom Wotton House, currently undergoing a £6m refurbishment, near Dorking, Surrey. Together the two brands will sit under newly launched umbrella group, the Principal Hotel Company (PHC).
PHC has been created from a portfolio of properties built up by Starwood Capital, which was founded by Barry Sternlicht, the man originally behind Starwood Hotels & Resorts, although the two companies are not connected. The new company has evolved from the consolidation of the collection of hotels Sternlicht has acquired over the past three years, including the Principal Hayley Group of 22 four-AA-star hotels for £365m, De Vere Venues (£231m), Four Pillars Hotels (£90m) and two hotels within the Town House Collection (undisclosed sum).
The Principal name was first introduced into the UK in 1984 with the founding of Principal Hotels. During the intervening years, the company has arisen from a collapse into administration in 1992 to include numerous takeovers, acquisitions and disposals.
In 1994, Tony Troy led a management buyout of the company, which 13 years later acquired Hayley Conference Hotels to become the Principal Hayley Group. Troy continues to run what is a very different company today and will become chief executive of PHC, supported by two chief operating officers: David Taylor at Principal and Laurie Nichol at De Vere.
By reverting to the Principal name, the intention is that the newly refurbished urban properties will become the “principal” hotels in their respective cities. The brand logo will include the words “Established 1898”, which refers to the date that the Hotel Russell – due to join the brand under the name of the Principal London in Easter 2017 – opened.
Other properties to join the Principal brand will include the Roxburgh and Bonham, Edinburgh; Grand Central and Blythswood, Edinburgh; St David’s Hotel & Spa, Cardiff; the Met, Leeds; and the former Martins bank building in Liverpool which is currently being converted to a hotel.
Each Principal hotel will have a different look, following partnerships with a variety of interior designers and local food and beverage operators. The Principal Manchester, for instance, has teamed up with West Didsbury-based Volta restaurant, owned by former DJs Luke Cowdrey and Justin Crawford, to open an all-day, open plan venue, which has been described as offering “energy and effervescence where the food experience is serious but never forced or stiff”.
All Principal hotels will have a strong British focus, with pillar box red used as an accent colour and vintage pillar boxes present in every lobby, alongside a corner shop selling items to add to the mini bar and essential items a guest may have left at home.