Lord Charles Forte
Founder of Forte PLC
|By age 21, Italy-born Lord Charles Forte already was managing a large family foodservice business, but his dreams didn’t stop there. Within five years, he had opened his own restaurant—the Meadow Milk Bar in central London. In spite of the economic conditions in Britain after World War II, the Milk Bar’s success enabled Lord Forte to expand his company to include nine additional restaurants, as well as numerous government-catering contracts and all of the airline catering at Heathrow Airport. He even received the contract to cater all of the food served at the 1951 Festival of Britain, which had nearly 8 million visitors in four months.
In 1958, Lord Forte purchased his first hotel, London’s Waldorf. By 1962, his company had entered the London Stock Exchange. His was the first company to recognize the importance of highway travelers by opening the first motorway service area in Britain.
Three prestigious Paris hotels made up the company’s first major international hotel acquisition in 1968: the George V, the Plaza Athenee and the Tremoille. Ahead of his time in recognizing the importance of tourism, Lord Forte became the “founder member” of the London Tourist Board.
A 1970 merger with Trust Houses PLC and the 1973 purchase of the U.S.-based Travelodge properties helped to establish Forte PLC as a major force in the hotel and foodservice industry of Great Britain and around the world. In 1995, Forte PLC had 940 hotels with 97,000 rooms and more than 600 restaurants, including the original Meadow Milk Bar.
Lord Forte received his knighthood in 1970 and became a life peer in 1982. He is a Knight of the Grand Cross of the Italian Republic and was personally presented with a special Papal Medal by the Pope Pious XII.
Lord Forte worked throughout his career to raise the status of the hospitality industry and tourism as a whole. As Margaret Thatcher once said, “Charles Forte is a man whose vision has never dimmed. . . When he founded his business he was equipped with two vital strengths, a clear sense of right and wrong inherited from his parents and a sound education from his childhood in Scotland. By adding to these his own enterprise, determination and leadership, he has built a company which has provided billions of pounds in foreign earnings for our country and jobs for tens of thousands of people across the world.”