In 1995, 50-year-old Norman Springford decided he wanted ‘more fun’ in his life and sold his 25 pubs and accountancy firm to move into the hotel business. With support from Royal Bank of Scotland, he paid £1.2m for a derelict but centrally located property in Edinburgh and spent £5m converting it into the upmarket 175-bedroom Apex International Hotel. In 1997 he spent a further £1.1m on the 67-bedroom Apex European, a converted office block. While other hotel chains were concentrating on small roadside motels for business travellers, Springford had spotted a niche market for large, smart, city-centre establishments. Repeat business from corporate clients and a focus on the market’s top end have boosted Apex’s sales by 75% a year, from £961,000 in 1996 to £5.2m in 1999. Springford says his biggest challenge now is finding suitable properties for conversion. He recently bought a £5.5m office block for his next project.
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