Among a number of milestone moments throughout the Scottish business community, June brought the announcement that Aberdeen-based conglomerate Balmoral Group is expanding into the hospitality sector with the acquisition of the five-star Marcliffe Hotel.

While certainly a notable development for Sir Jim Milne’s Balmoral Group, the deal also marked the poignant end of an era for the Marcliffe under the stewardship of the Spence family. Managing director Ross Spence - who took charge of the popular Aberdeen wedding and conference venue when his father Stewart retired in 2021 - said Balmoral is a "perfect fit" for Marcliffe but was equally wistful.

"While it’s bittersweet to think we may soon be handing over the keys to The Marcliffe, we know that Balmoral are the perfect fit to continue its legacy," he said.

Sir Jim Milne (left), founder of the Balmoral Group, and Marcliffe managing director Ross SpencerSir Jim Milne (left), founder of the Balmoral Group, and Marcliffe managing director Ross Spencer (Image: Balmoral Group)

"As long-time custodians of the Marcliffe brand, our family has cherished and nurtured it with love and dedication. So much of our lives have been spent here and the staff and regular customers have become family over the years – Sir Jim is part of that.

"We are confident that Balmoral will honour the Marcliffe’s heritage and care for it with the same passion and commitment that has been at the heart of our family so that the hotel will thrive for decades more."

Marcliffe Hotel was acquired by Stewart Spence in 1979 and relocated to its current site in 1993, when the opening was attended by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev who was in the city to receive the Freedom of Aberdeen. With 40 bedrooms sitting on eight acres of grounds, the venue has long been a favourite of former first minister Alex Salmond and has been the backdrop for a number of his high-profile events.

In 2013 the elder Mr Spence announced plans to retire, with the Marcliffe to be closed and sold to an office developer. The following year, however, it emerged that the hotel was to be bought by Aberdeen housbuilder Stewart Milne – which collapsed into administration earlier this year – in a bid to turn the site into homes.

That deal also fell through, and in 2015 it was confirmed that the hotel would stay open under the Spence family’s ownership.

For its part, Balmoral Group has said that maintaining quality and standards at the Marcliffe is of the "utmost importance".

READ MORE: Balmoral hails 'significant uplift' after falling to loss

“The Marcliffe is an Aberdeen institution, and is an establishment very close to my heart," Sir Jim said.

"I’ve known the Spence family for a long time, and it feels like a natural progression for Balmoral Group. Stewart is recognised as one of the best hoteliers in Scotland, and it’s through his work that we have strong foundations to continue his legacy.”

Elsewhere, the custodian of the historic Old Course in St Andrews announced that it has returned to financial health following a record-breaking year for revenue and profit.

Neil Coulson, chief executive of St Andrews Links Trust, said the organisation is "in good shape now" after repaying more than £8 million in debt accumulated during the Covid lockdown and travel restrictions of 2020 and 2021. The trust's cumulative losses for the two years were in excess of £11m.

The Old Course at St AndrewsThe Old Course at St Andrews (Image: SALT)

In addition to the Old Course, St Andrews Links Trust is in charge of a further six courses in the area: the New Course, Castle Course, Jubilee, Eden, Strathtyrum and Balgove. It also has a number of associated facilities including the St Andrews Links Golf Academy.

The trust generated a record £44m in operating revenue in 2023, with an operating profit of £11.5m. This was up from revenues of £34m and a profit of £3.7m in 2022.

In the professional services sector, Scottish accountancy firm Johnston Carmichael announced that it has strengthened its leadership team with five senior promotions.

Glasgow-based Graeme Bain has been promoted to partner along with tax specialist Gillian McColgan from Johnston Carmichael’s Aberdeen office. Sally Hewish, who is based in London, also joins the senior ranks as audit partner.

These promotions were complemented by the appointment of two new directors. Ryan Milne, based in Dundee, stepped up to business advisory director and Keith Hamilton in Edinburgh was appointed general counsel.