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22/04/2011 - Profumo Affair property in UK up for grabs?  22/04/2011 - Profumo Affair property in UK up for grabs?

22/04/2011 - Profumo Affair property in UK up for grabs?

The holding company of Von Essen Hotels, Von Essen Group, has been placed in the hands of administrators Ernst & Young as it struggles to pay off debts of £250 million (US$383 million).

Ernst & Young were appointed as administrators by Barclays and Lloyds Banking Group after the holding company failed to make interest payments on their £250 million debt.

Ernst & Young confirmed the administration only affected the holding company Von Essen Group and that its twenty eight hotels throughout the UK and France would be operating normally.

“It is business as usual for the hotels and customers of Von Essen Hotels can continue to enjoy their stay," commented Angela Swarbrick, joint administrator.

Founded in 1996 by Chairman Andrew Davies, Von Essen Group are expected to sell off assets including luxury houses and castles, such as Amberley Castle; a nine hundred year old citadel in West Sussex, United Kingdom.

Experts have speculated that the company’s collapse is a consequence of Davies’ attempts to attract outside investors to reduce the Von Essen Group’s debts.

Industry insiders claim that Barclays has become increasingly worried at the accuracy of Davies’s property valuations. In his last financial report Davies claimed the group’s assets were worth £430 million (US$711 million), far higher than the £250 million (US$383 million) of debt and additional liabilities of £34 million (US$56 million).

In fact, the group’s 2010 accounts show an operating profit of £25 million (US$41 million) from a turnover of £74.2 million (US$122.5 million). The annual report shows a retained net profit of £1.94 million (US$3.2 million).

But it is expected that when the full accounts are filed they will show a loss. So far Andrew Davies has been unavailable for comment.

Von Essen Group were selected as the World's Leading Boutique Hotel Group at the 2010 World Travel Awards. The awards were introduced 18 years ago and reward organisations who have made a consistent and significant impact on customer service within the travel and tourism industry.

Property experts are predicting that there could well be a bidding frenzy for Von Essen Group’s properties when they go under the hammer.

One of England’s most famous country houses, Cliveden House, situated on the banks of the river Thames in Berkshire, is likely to be up for sale. The property is best known from the notorious Profumo Affair, a British polital sex scandal involving John Profumo and Christine Keeler in the 1960’s. John Profumo was the Secretary of State for War in Harold Macmillan's government.

Cliveden House was previously home to the First Earl of Orkney; Frederick Lewis a former Prince of Wales; the Duke of Sutherland and the Duke of Westminster.

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