When Tim Kemp spotted what was to become his first hotel it was being used as a backpackers’ hostel. Realising the potential of the Regency townhouse, Kemp took on the lease and set about converting the building into a luxury hotel with help from his wife Kit, who redesigned the interior. The former property developer’s instincts were proved correct as the 38-bedroom Dorset Square Hotel reopened its doors in 1987. That first purchase was followed by eight others throughout central London. Kemp has an eye for a handsome building, having converted his Charlotte Street Hotel from a former dental equipment building and spent £9.5m converting a stuccoed terrace at No 16 in South Kensington. Each hotel has fewer than 60 rooms, offering modern comforts such as VCRs, air conditioning and granite and oak bathrooms. Demand for its “urban hideaways” has proved robust, and the company now enjoys a high proportion of repeat business as clients move between hotels within its portfolio. Firmdale has seen profits increase 24% a year, from £2.1m in 1997 to £4m in 2000, when sales reached £12.5m.
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