Charles Forte, Baron Forte
|The Right Honourable
The Lord Forte
26 November 1908
|Died||28 February 2007
London, United Kingdom
|Occupation||Caterer and hotelier|
|Known for||Forte Group|
|Spouse(s)||Irene Mary Chierico|
Charles Carmine Forte, Baron Forte (26 November 1908 – 28 February 2007) was a Scottish caterer and hotelier of Italian origin who founded the leisure and hotels conglomerate that ultimately became the Forte Group.
Childhood and education
After Rome, Forte rejoined his family, who had moved to Weston-super-Mare, where his father ran a café with two cousins. Charles's main training at the age of 21 came in Brighton, where he managed the Venetian Lounge for a cousin.
At 26, he set up his first "milk bar" in 1935, the Strand Milk Bar Ltd, in Regent Street, London, having thoroughly researched the location. Soon he began expanding into catering and hotel businesses. At the outbreak of World War II, Forte was interned in the Isle of Man due to his Italian nationality, but he was released after only three months. After the war, his company became Forte Holdings Ltd and bought the Café Royal in 1954.
In the 1950s, he also opened the first catering facility at Heathrow Airport and the first full British motorway service station for cars at Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, on the M1 motorway in 1959. He purchased the Hungaria Restaurant in Lower Regent St. in 1955.
Trust Houses Group Ltd and Forte Holdings were merged in 1970 to become Trust House Forte or THF. Through mergers and expansion, Forte expanded the Forte Group into a multibillion-pound business. His empire included the Little Chef and Happy Eater roadside restaurants, Crest, Forte Grand, Travelodge and Posthouse hotels, as well as the wine merchant Grierson-Blumenthal and a majority (although non-controlling) stake in the Savoy Hotel.
The Grierson-Blumenthal stake was a "forced" acquisition by the group. It had originally been a personal holding of Charles Forte and fellow directors of the group, supplying liquor to Forte restaurants and hotels at substantial personal profit, until concern in the late 1970s about prosecution under the Companies Act obliged the directors to incorporate Grierson-Blumenthal as a subsidiary.
Forte was the CEO from 1971 and chairman from 1982 (when his son Rocco took over as CEO) of the Forte Group. Happy Eater and the five Welcome Break service areas were bought from Hanson Trust PLC on 1 August 1986. In the 1990s, the company was renamed as Forte Group plc.
Forte passed full control to his son Rocco in 1993, but soon the Forte Group was faced with a hostile takeover bid from Granada. Ultimately, Granada succeeded with a £3.9 billion tender offer in January 1996, which left the family with about £350 million in cash.
Honours and awards
Forte was knighted by The Queen Mother in 1970 and created a life peer on 2 February 1982 as Baron Forte, of Ripley in the County of Surrey. He was also a knight of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
In January 1943, Forte married Irene Mary Chierico, an English woman with Italian origin too. From the 1950s, Forte lived with an extended family including his parents and children at Greenway Gardens in Frognal, north London. They worshipped at the Roman Catholic St. Mary's Church in nearby Holly Lane, Hampstead.
Together, they had six children, five girls and a boy:
- The Hon. Sir Rocco Forte (b. 1945 as Rocco John Vincent Forte), who was knighted in 1995
- The Hon. Olga Forte CBE (b. 1947), who was married to the late Count Alessandro Polizzi & then The Hon. William Shawcross
- The Hon. Marie Louise Forte (b. 1950)
- The Hon. Irene Forte (b. 1956)
- The Hon. Giancarla Forte (b. 1959)
- The Hon. Portia Forte (b. 1964)
Irene, Lady Forte died in 2010, and she is buried with her husband in West Hampstead Cemetery.
- "Hotel baron Lord Forte dies at 98". BBC News Online. 28 February 2007.
- Cowe, Roger (1 March 2007). "Obituary – Lord Forte". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
- "No. 45152". The London Gazette. 17 July 1970. p. 7941.
- "No. 48883". The London Gazette. 5 February 1982. p. 1621.
- Charles Forte (1986). Charles Forte – Autobiography. London: Sedgewick.
- "No. 54058". The London Gazette. 9 June 1995. p. 8075.
- Rivkin, Annabel (20 January 2012). "Alex Polizzi, a most unlikely sex bomb". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 2 August 2016.