THE COPTHORNE Hotel overlooking Glasgow's George Square is changing

hands again -- this time going to a Singapore company.

The deal for the 18-strong Copthorne chain, owned by Irish airline Aer

Lingus, is due to be formally signed at midnight tomorrow.

CDL Hotels, part of the Singapore Hong Leong group, will pay about

#224m to the debt-laden, state-owned Irish airline, which is selling off

non-core businesses to cut operating losses.

The Glasgow hotel, which has had a chequered career since 1983, will

be restored to former glories, according to its new general manager

Mandy Scott.

The present owners have spent #800,000 in refurbishments over the past

five years; another #250,000 on a recent facelift to the Victorian

facade, and scheduled #200,000 to complete bedroom upgrading and a new

look for the La Mirage bar.

Ms Scott, 31, the Copthorne chain's youngest general manager, said

that CDL will continue investment in Glasgow. She added: ''The intention

is to restore the hotel to its former glories when it was known as the

North British. It has a fantastic location, and we want it back in its

rightful place as one of Glasgow's top hotels.

CDL, described as the most acquisitive hotel group in the world over

the past two years, already owns 37 hotels. The latest deal will provide

a strategic foothold in Europe, where the Copthorne chain has 11

four-star hotels in the UK and others in France and Germany.

Ms Scott said the full-time staff of 75 in Glasgow will increase as

more investment and business are attracted. She confirmed that the

much-maligned conservatory overlooking George Square will be replaced in

due course.

The conservatory was installed by Cairo-born entrepreneur, Emil Malak,

who paid #1.5m for the hotel in 1983, then owned by British Rail and

called the North British.

Mr Malak was awarded grants of #207,000 and #90,000 respectively from

the Scottish Tourist Board and the Historic Buildings Council, plus

Scottish Development Agency grants and loans of #200,000.

He sold the hotel, which he renamed The Diplomat, just two years later

for #5m to a subsidiary of British Caledonian Airways who launched the

Copthorne name. The chain was subsequently taken over by Aer Lingus in


Ms Scott, transferred from the Aberdeen Copthorne to take charge of

the 141-bedroom Glasgow hotel, said it will go upmarket, with CDL aiming

at the business community in particular.

She added: ''The Copthorne has been overtaken in terms of glitz since

it was the North British, and we plan to restore the former glories of

many years ago.''

A 9% increase in turnover to #14m is forecast for next year by Ms

Scott, who intends to build on the 10-year old Copthorne brand name,

being retained by the new owners.

She joined the Copthorne chain as an assistant manager in 1986 after

gaining an honours degree in hotel and catering management.

CDL, which in April bought the famous Plaza Hotel in New York in a

joint venture with a nephew of King Fahd of Saui Arabia, has hotels in

Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Phillipines, Singapore,

Taiwan. It also owns the Gloucester, Bailey's, and the Chelsea in


Business sources predict CDL will seek a public listing on the London

Stock Exchange, with such a flotation covering its North American and

European interests valued at more than #630m.


THE reclusive Barclay brothers are buying the five-star Ritz Hotel in

London for #75m cash, equivalent to #575,000 per room, writes NICOLA


The mega-rich brothers, who already own other hotels and The European

newspaper, are buying the hotel through Ellerman Investments, their

investment vehicle, and an affiliated company.

The seller is the conglomerate Trafalgar House whose other interests

include the QE2 and the John Brown and Davy engineering companies. It

had been trying to sell the Ritz for several years. The Ritz has a book

value of about #60m and last year made a profit of #3.8m.

The Ritz, the first steel-framed building in London, was opened in

1906 and bought by Trafalgar House in 1976. When it opened, a single

room without a bath but including electric light cost 10s 6d (52[1/2]p)

a night. That compares with around #200 today.

The sale is expected to be completed early next month with Trafalgar

House using the proceeds to pay off some of its #200m borrowings. The

Ritz is the last of Trafalgar House's hotels to be sold as part of its

plan to concentrate on its construction and engineering businesses.