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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 February 2007, 13:41 GMT
Hotel baron Lord Forte dies at 98
Lord Forte in the 1990s
Lord Forte died in his sleep
The hotel and catering magnate, Lord Forte, has died at his home in London at the age of 98.

A company spokeswoman said: "Lord Forte passed away peacefully in his sleep at 7am at his home in London."

Charles Forte started his career as the owner of a London milk bar and went on to become the head of a worldwide empire of hotels and restaurants.

It included 800 hotels from the top end to budget, and roadside restaurants Little Chef and Happy Eater.

Charles Forte was four when his family arrived from Italy to open a cafe in Edinburgh.

Motorway services

In 1934, he opened a milk bar in Upper Regent Street, in London, and several more followed.

Two decades later he was awarded the first contract to supply catering services to London's new Heathrow Airport.

By 1959 he had launched the first full motorway service station for cars at Newport Pagnell and at the same time began acquiring hotels, beginning with the Waldorf in London.

The first of his budget Travelodge hotels opened in the Midlands in 1985 to cater for drivers needing a bed for the night.

Charles Forte, 1980

His company also supplied food for planes, as well as some of the grandest hotels. At its peak, it had some 68,000 employees.

He retired in 1992 leaving control of the company to his only son, Sir Rocco.

Three years later Granada assumed control of the Forte empire - by then known as Trusthouse Forte - after a bitter takeover battle.

But the Forte name continues in Rocco Forte Hotels, a chain of 10 luxury hotels across a number of European cities.

Lord Forte's contribution to the catering industry and charities was recognised when he was knighted in 1970.

He later accepted a life peerage in 1982 under Margaret Thatcher's government.


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