Rocco Forte: London Non-Doms ‘Packing Their Bags’

Hotel Mogul: U.K.'s Wealthy Non-Doms Are Packing Up

Many of London’s wealthy are preparing to leave the U.K. amid signs Labour Party leader Ed Miliband may become prime minister after the May 7 general election, according to luxury-hotel operator Rocco Forte.

“We haven’t seen such a left-wing manifesto since the 60s and 70s,” he said in an interview at Brown’s Hotel in London’s Mayfair, one of 11 properties in the Rocco Forte Hotels group. “A lot of non-doms in London are already packing their bags, getting ready to leave,” Forte said, without giving any names or saying where he got the information from.

Miliband’s stance against tax avoiders has riled critics like Forte, who claim the wealthy are being unfairly targeted. The Labour leader has pledged to end so-called non-dom status, which allows some people living in the U.K. to avoid paying tax on all of their income if their “permanent home” is regarded as being abroad.

“We say they’re not paying anything, but they’re spending money here left, right and center,” said Forte. “They’re contributing to the economy, bringing a big influx of capital which probably wouldn’t come in other circumstances.”

His comments are at odds with Gopichand Hinduja, one of Britain’s richest men, who earlier this month said he isn’t worried about the prospect of Miliband becoming prime minister. That’s because the politician is “sensible” and wouldn’t hurt London’s international status, Hinduja said in an interview.

Conservative Supporter

Forte founded his company in 1996, after working for hotel operator Forte Plc, the company founded by his father in 1934, that was bought by Granada Group Plc. His properties include The Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, Brown’s Hotel in London, the Hotel Savoy in Florence and the Charles Hotel in Munich.

Despite Miliband’s pledges, Forte, who said he is a lifetime Conservative supporter, is frustrated with Prime Minister David Cameron.

“I don’t have a sense of the direction in which Cameron wants to go,” he said. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown “created the biggest bust that has ever been in this history of this country and the Conservatives haven’t pinned that on Labour,” he said.

Demand for European hotels among real estate investors is soaring, particularly from the Middle East. Qatar’s Constellation Hotels Group agreed to buy a 64 percent stake in the company that owns London’s Claridges hotel on April 23. Almost $25 billion of hotels in Europe, the Middle East and Africa will change hands during 2015, up from $21.5 billion in 2014, according to broker JLL.

Middle Eastern investors have more money “than they almost know what to do with,” Forte said. “They like to invest in real estate in major cities across the world. I run the hotels, they invest in them.”

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