Topland hires hotels director to drive £1bn business plans

By Luke Nicholls

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Hotel, Hilton hotels

Lionel Benjamin was attracted to the 'entrepreneurial flair' of the Topland Group
Lionel Benjamin was attracted to the 'entrepreneurial flair' of the Topland Group
One month after revealing plans to build a ‘£1bn hotel business’, the Topland Group has appointed a new director of hotels to lead the international property and investment firm through its next stage of growth.

Lionel Benjamin joins Topland from the Ability Group, where he headed the hotel and leisure division for three-and-a-half years.

“I was particularly attracted to the entrepreneurial flair of the Topland Group and its quick decision making structure,” said Benjamin. “The opportunity to join such a financial powerhouse and develop such an exciting hotel business was too good an opportunity to turn down.”

Prior to his time at Ability, Benjamin was senior director of Asset Integration at Hilton Worldwide where he was involved in the sale of 13 Hilton hotels including a European portfolio. In 2006, he was awarded an Honorary Professorship of Hospitality and Tourism at the University of West London and he has also been the director of operations at The Savoy and the Hilton London Metropole.

His appointment at Topland comes shortly after the firm’s acquisition of the parent company of Menzies Hotels from administration​ for close to £85m.

The deal, which saved 1,200 jobs, saw Topland acquire 12 hotels spread across the UK, from Aberdeen to Bournemouth. Independent hotel operator Bespoke Hotels was brought in to take over the management of the sites under Vision Asset Management.

Deep pockets

Topland’s director Tom Betts then told BigHospitality that the newly acquired hotels will eventually fall under a new brand as the company wants to dramatically increase its exposure to the hotel sector.

Topland’s chief executive Sol Zakay said: “We have highlighted our strategy of increasing the diversification of the Topland Group. Our hotels business is a key element of that strategy. Lionel has a mandate to seek out hotels of a similar ilk in luxury and quality to Royal Crescent which we will own outright and operate.

“The primary focus will be in the UK but we will also look at single assets or portfolios in continental Europe or further abroad.”

Topland is one of the largest privately owned international investment groups. It now owns 21 hotels including Bath's Royal Crescent Hotel, the Brighton Metropole, the Glasgow Hilton and a portfolio of Thistle Hotels - six in central London and one in Edinburgh.

The group’s lending business, which has a loan book in excess of £300m, will also make use of Benjamin’s expertise, with an expectation to see a rise in funding deals for the hotel sector.

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