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Charles Forte, Baron Forte

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The Lord Forte
Carmine Forte

(1908-11-26)26 November 1908
Mortale, Italy
Died28 February 2007(2007-02-28) (aged 98)
London, England
Occupation(s)Caterer and hotelier
Known forForte Group
SpouseIrene Mary Chierico
Children6, including Rocco Forte and Olga Polizzi

Charles Carmine Forte, Baron Forte Kt /ˈfɔːrt/ (26 November 1908 – 28 February 2007) was an Italian-born Scottish hotelier who founded the leisure and hotels conglomerate that ultimately became the Forte Group.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Charles Forte was born as Carmine Forte in Mortale, now Monforte, Casalattico, in the province of Frosinone, Italy on 26 November 1908, eldest son of Rocco Giovanni Forte and Maria Luigia, daughter of Michelangelo Antonio Forte. His parents were distantly related.[3][4] He emigrated from Italy to Scotland at the age of four with his family.[5]

He attended Alloa Academy and then St. Joseph's College, Dumfries as a boarder, followed by two years of studies in Rome.[6]

Early career[edit]

After Rome, Forte rejoined his family, who had moved to Weston-super-Mare, where his father ran a café with two cousins. Charles' main training at the age of 21 came in Brighton, where he managed the Venetian.

At 26, he set up his first "milk bar" in 1935, the Strand Milk Bar Ltd.[6] 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.[6] 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 motorway service station in the UK for cars at Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, on the M1 motorway in 1959. He purchased the Hungaria Restaurant in Lower Regent St. in 1955.[citation needed]

Later career[edit]

Grave of Lord and Lady Forte in West Hampstead Cemetery

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 non-controlling majority stake in the Savoy Hotel.

The Grierson-Blumenthal stake became a legally "forced" acquisition by the group. It had 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 the prejudice to shareholders was realised in the late 1970s (including possible prosecution under the Companies Act) which obliged its acquisition as a subsidiary.

Forte was the CEO from 1971 and chairman from 1982 (when his son Rocco took over as CEO) of the Group. Happy Eater and the five Welcome Break major road service outlets were bought from Hanson Trust PLC on 1 August 1986. In the 1990s, the company increased its nominal capital and agreed to the public listed companies compliance regime to become Forte Group plc.

Forte passed full control to his son Rocco in 1993, but soon the plc 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.

On 28 February 2007, Forte died in his sleep at his home in London, aged 98.[5] He is buried in West Hampstead Cemetery.

Honours and awards[edit]

Forte was knighted by The Queen Mother in 1970[7] and created a life peer on 2 February 1982 as Baron Forte, of Ripley in the County of Surrey.[8] He was also a knight of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Coat of arms of Charles Forte, Baron Forte
Out of the battlements of a tower Azure a bunch of grapes between two ears of corn Proper.
Argent four pallets Gules over all a bend Argent fimbriated Azure and on a chief Azure three mullets of six points gyronny of twelve Or and Argent.
Dexter a pheasant Proper, sinister a salmon Proper.
Fortis Ut Jus[9]


In January 1943, Forte married Irene Mary, daughter of Giovanni Chierico, of Venice; her family ran a delicatessen on Wardour Street, Soho. Lady Forte had been apprenticed to a Mayfair couturier, where she learned sewing and gained an appreciation of quality materials. After her father's death when she was 17, she ran the family shop for three months whilst her mother was in Italy; it was destroyed by a bomb during the Blitz in 1940.[10] From the 1950s, Forte lived with an extended family including his parents and children at Greenway Gardens in Frognal, Hampstead, London.[11] They attended services 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 John Vincent Forte (b. 1945), who was knighted in 1995.[12] On 15 February 1986, he married Aliai Giovanna Maria Ricci in Rome. They have three children.
  • The Hon. Olga Forte CBE (b. 1947), who was married firstly to the late Count Alessandro Polizzi[13] and secondly, in 1993, to The Hon. William Shawcross. Olga had two children with Alessandro:
  • The Hon. Marie Louise Forte (b. 1950), who married Robert Alexander Burness and had two children.
  • The Hon. Irene Forte (b. 1956), who married US Ambassador John Danilovich and had three children.
  • The Hon. Giancarla Forte (b. 1959), who married Michael Ulic Anthony Alen-Buckley[15] and had two children.[3]

Irene, Lady Forte died 12 September 2010,[16][10] and she is buried with her husband.

Lord Forte's family came from Mortale (later renamed Monforte in his honour),[4] in the Lazio region of Southern Italy, where he retained the family home.[10]


  1. ^ "Lord Forte". The Telegraph. March 2007.
  2. ^ "Charles Forte - businessman and hotelier".
  3. ^ a b Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, 107th edition, vol. 1, ed. Charles Mosley, Burke's Peerage Ltd, 2003, p. 1472
  4. ^ a b Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2005-2008, ed. Lawrence Goldman, Oxford University Press, 2013, p. 387
  5. ^ a b "Hotel baron Lord Forte dies at 98". BBC News Online. 28 February 2007.
  6. ^ a b c Cowe, Roger (1 March 2007). "Obituary – Lord Forte". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
  7. ^ "No. 45152". The London Gazette. 17 July 1970. p. 7941.
  8. ^ "No. 48883". The London Gazette. 5 February 1982. p. 1621.
  9. ^ Debrett's Peerage. 2003. p. 760.
  10. ^ a b c "Lives remembered: Irene, the Lady Forte". 24 September 2010.
  11. ^ Charles Forte (1986). Charles Forte – Autobiography. London: Sedgewick.
  12. ^ "No. 54058". The London Gazette. 9 June 1995. p. 8075.
  13. ^ Rivkin, Annabel (20 January 2012). "Alex Polizzi, a most unlikely sex bomb". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  14. ^ "Relative Values: Olga Polizzi and her daughter Alexandra". The Times. 1 July 2007.
  15. ^ Hosking, Patrick, "RAB bosses cash in £25m of shares", thetimes.co.uk, 23 June 2005.
  16. ^ The Telegraph, 14 September 2010, "Notices"