By Scott Wright

ONE of Scotland’s biggest hotel groups has appointed a former senior executive of Jamie’s Italian as its new boss as it bids to recover from the coronavirus crisis.

Macdonald Hotels & Resorts described the recruitment of industry veteran Tara O’Neill as chief executive as a “pivotal” move for the company, which has 30 hotels and five holiday resorts in the UK.

The move comes after Macdonald embarked on a major round of job cuts in June, as the coronavirus crisis began to take its toll on the hospitality and tourism sector. The company ultimately made a total of 571 redundancies out of the 2,229 people it employed across Scotland and England. 

Ms O’Neill, a chartered accountant, arrives following the decision at the start of the year of long-serving managing director Gordon Fraser to retire. Mr Fraser has remained with the business to help guide it though the challenges brought by the pandemic, and to secure an additional Covid-19 finance facility with Lloyds Banking Group.

Ms O’Neill worked in professional practice in Ireland and the UK with Arthur Andersen and KPMG, before moving into the hospitality sector. She has held senior roles with Luminar Leisure and Jamie’s Italian, where she served on the board for several years.

Most recently, Ms O’Neill was chief executive of Avoca, a leading retail and hospitality brand in Ireland.

She said: “The enormous impact of Covid-19 on the hospitality sector underlines the challenges which face us in the months and years ahead, but I believe the Macdonald portfolio of assets represents a unique and exciting opportunity to capitalise on the changing face of the hospitality sector and the evolving needs of our customers.”

Macdonald founder Donald Macdonald said: “This is a pivotal appointment at an extremely important time for the group. I am very confident that, in Tara, we have recruited someone who can provide the necessary leadership and ambition to help us build upon the very solid foundations which Gordon has helped to create over many years.

“During the recruitment process, Tara impressed everyone involved with her vision for the group, and her track record gives us real confidence that the business will continue to prosper and grow, despite the obvious current challenges which Covid-19 has brought to our industry.”