Family business lands £20m deal to buy Whittlebury Hall

Whittlebury Hall

A family business has landed a £20m loan which will allow it to buy Whittlebury Hall.

The owners of Whittlebury Park, the 30-acre site near to the Silverstone racing circuit in Northamptonshire, have signed a deal with OakNorth Bank to bring the entire estate in family ownership.

Whittlebury Park was acquired by husband and wife, Jeff and Carol Sargeant, in 1984. A staged development of the estate has since taken place to create the golf courses (built from 1990 – 1992), the Hotel & Spa facility (1998), the wedding facility (2000), the golf clubhouse (2003), and the 41-bedroom accommodation (from 2012-2014).

The loan will be used to acquire Whittlebury Hall – a 4-star hotel, conference centre and spa situated on the grounds, comprising of 213 guest bedrooms, as well as four restaurants (Astons, Murray’s, The Courtyard, and The Terrace Café), a bar, spa and leisure club with an indoor swimming pool.

Over the last three years, the management’s strategy has been to develop the corporate customer base, increasing sales and marketing efforts to attract more corporate bookings. This strategy has resulted in occupancy levels averaging more than 70 per cent over the last three years, with the figure expected to increase to over 80 per cent from next year.

Jeff Sargeant, executive chairman of Whittlebury Park, and chairman of the Golf Club network, said: “It has taken over three decades to develop Whittlebury Park into the estate it is today and as we look ahead to the future, we are keen to continue building on its success and expand further. Uniting Whittlebury Hall with Whittlebury Park will bring the entire estate into family control, and provides us with the opportunity to increase our corporate proposition and host more guests during peak times such as the Grand Prix.

“The team at OakNorth were extremely supportive throughout this process, ensuring we were kept in the loop on how everything was progressing. Their transparent and flexible approach meant the deal was completed in just six weeks from our initial meeting, rather than the months it’s taken us to get a loan from banks in the past.”

Ben Barbanel, head of debt finance at OakNorth, said: “Since the Brexit vote, we have seen a significant boom in business as many larger lenders have been slowing down their decision and underwriting processes even more than normal. Given that the economic uncertainty looks set to continue into 2017, we expect to continue seeing this surge in demand over the course of next year.

“What’s more is that we’ve always found that in times of dislocation, the best entrepreneurs find opportunities to grow stronger businesses. Whittlebury’s ambitious plans for expansion is a great example of this – it is a strong family business that is taking strategic steps to ensure the business will thrive for generations to come.”

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