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Monday, June 22, 1998 Published at 19:03 GMT 20:03 UK

Business: The Company File

Battle hots up for Cliveden

Bill Gates' consortium could be facing a challenge for the hotel group

The scene is being set for a colourful takeover battle for the Cliveden hotel chain after a group involving the world's wealthiest investment bank, Goldman Sachs, confirmed it was considering a counter-bid to Bill Gates and his consortium of American investors.

The consortium, Destination Europe, which includes Microsoft's billionaire founder hoped to buy the luxury hotels group for 42.8m after launching an agreed takeover bid last week.

But in a brief statement Goldman Sachs said: "Following recent speculation, Goldman Sachs International announces that Whitehall Street Real Estate Ltd Partnership IX and Westmont Development Inc. are in discussions with Cliveden plc which may or may not lead to a joint offer being made for Cliveden plc."

Goldman Sachs is one of Whitehall Street's main backers.

Rich history

Cliveden is one of the country's most luxurious hotels and is famous as the setting of the Profumo scandal in the early 1960s and as home to the Astor family for more than half a century.

The hotel's rich history has long fascinated Americans. Before World War I the building hosted glittering parties for royalty and the titled.

The most expensive rooms in the Victorian building which overlooks the Thames in Berkshire, cost 750 a night.

The company also has hotels at Bath's Royal Crescent and London's Knightsbridge, and plans to open up at St Andrew Square in Edinburgh next year.

It occupies the property on a 100-year lease from the National Trust which began in 1990.

The National Trust has said public access to the stately home's grounds and some of its rooms will not be affected by any changes in the Cliveden company's ownership.

The Cliveden estate was given to the Trust in 1942 by the Astors.

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