Cooden Beach seaside resort in Sussex acquired by Grace Leo and Tim Hartnoll
Developer, consultant, and hotelier Grace Leo has, with her business partner Tim Hartnoll, purchased the freehold of Cooden Beach Hotel in Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex for £6.9m from former owner James Kimber.
The 41-bedroom property, which was built in 1928, is a hidden gem set directly on the beach just a mile along the coast from the famous and iconic De La Warr Pavillion. “Once I had seen the Cooden Beach Hotel, I was in awe of its unique location and possibilities,” said Grace Leo. “I have developed upscale resort hotels in far-off destinations like St Barth’s, Mustique and St Jean Cap Ferrat, so my instinct says that there’s no reason why we can’t recreate that idyllic resort experience in a hotel that’s on the English coast, despite the cooler climate. Our plans are to create a haven for our guests to rest, relax and be nourished in a beautiful seaside setting.” The hotel is set to undergo a full renovation over the coming year to become a seaside destination hotel for city dwellers to escape to at the weekend.
The daughter of a Hong Kong hotelier, Grace Leo has been involved in the hotel world all her life. Having started her career with InterContinental Hotels before working for the Sheraton Group and then Warwick International Hotels, Grace went ton to establish her own company, GLA Hotels, as a specialised consultancy service for luxury boutique hotels. She has since gained an enviable reputation for her eye for design and head for development projects with numerous well-known properties among her extensive portfolio.
Tim Hartnoll, Leo’s partner, is the executive chairman of X-Press Feeders, part of the Sea Consortium group, a global shipping company based in Singapore. A seasoned sailor growing up between England and Singapore, Tim is also a global investor whose hospitality interests include the Bawah Reserve in the Anambas Archipelago in Indonesia.
Following the purchase, former owner James Kimber said: “After 16 wonderful and successful years it is a pleasure to hand over the Cooden Beach Hotel to Grace Leo, whose design skills will capture the uniqueness of this very special location.”
Andrew Moore, Director at Christie & Co’s Hospitality Team who brokered the deal, added: “The sale of the Cooden Beach Hotel represented a rare opportunity to acquire a hotel in an enviable location directly on the beach, owning the beach up to high tide, together with huge scope to increase the business still further. Such opportunities do not come along every day, so we received a high volume of interest from buyers hoping to capitalise on the ongoing UK staycation boom forecast to take place this year once Covid-19 lockdown restrictions are lifted.”
The acquisition by Grace Leo and Tim Hartnoll follows their purchase of the Red Lion hotel in Henley-on-Thames less than six months ago, which will reopen as the Relais Henley later this year following a full refurbishment.
The Cooden Beach Hotel will remain open during peak season this year with full renovations due to be complete for unveiling in spring 2022.