Sir Rocco Forte
Sir Rocco Forte is Chairman of Rocco Forte Hotels. Son of the late Lord Charles Forte, Sir Rocco founded the luxury hotel company in 1996.
At present, the company operates hotels in key European destinations such as London, Edinburgh, Brussels, Florence, Rome, Puglia, Sicily, Munich, Frankfurt, Berlin, and St. Petersburg. In 2009, Rocco Forte Hotels launched Verdura, the company’s first resort on the island of Sicily.
The latest additions to the Rocco Forte collection include the recently opened Hotel de la Ville, a lively 18th-century palazzo in Rome, and Masseria Torre Maizza, a converted fortified farmhouse in the Apulian countryside.
Two new concepts recently launched: Rocco Forte House, an intimate collection of luxury apartments in Rome, and Rocco Forte Private Villas, a collection of luxury villas nestled in 230 hectares of olive groves in the grounds of Verdura Resort in Sicily.
In 2021, the company is proud to be launching a revived icon in Palermo, Villa Igiea, a truly magical building which has touched the hearts of every resident in Sicily’s capital. Plans to open a new property in Milan are also in the pipeline, as well as a continuation of the European expansion.
A veteran of the hospitality industry, Sir Rocco joined Forte Plc in 1969, becoming CEO in 1983 and Chairman in 1992, when he succeeded his father Lord (Charles) Forte, who founded the company in 1934. During his time at Forte, Sir Rocco had responsibility for more than 800 hotels, 1,000 restaurants and almost 100,000 employees in 50 countries around the world. As Chairman, Sir Rocco Forte significantly expanded the overseas operations of the company, with the acquisition of the Meridien Hotel Group from Air France and further transformed Forte from a UK operation to a multi-million pound business and global entity, encompassing several businesses and hotel brands, including notable iconic properties such as Hotel George V in Paris, Sandy Lane in Barbados, Hotel Ritz in Madrid and Hôtel Plaza Athénée in New York. Forte Plc was sold in 1996 following a hostile take-over bid and has since been broken up.
Sir Rocco was knighted in December 1994 for services to the UK tourism industry and received the highest Italian accolade, the Gran Croce dell’Ordine al Merito della Republicca Italiana, for his entrepreneurial merits and strong links with Italy in March 2005. From 1991-1996, he was President of the British Hospitality Association (the main trade body for the UK hotel and catering industry) and has also been an active member of the Executive Committee of the World Travel & Tourism Council.
Born in Bournemouth on 18 January 1945, Sir Rocco was educated at Downside School in England and went on to read modern languages at Pembroke College, Oxford. After graduating, he qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1969, later becoming a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in 1979. Sir Rocco is married to Lady (Aliai) Forte and has three children, Lydia, Irene and Charles.
A keen sportsman, Sir Rocco represented Britain at the World Triathlon Championships in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2007. In July 2005, he participated in his first Iron Man event at Klagenfurt in Austria, finishing 2nd in his category. A keen long distance runner, Sir Rocco has completed several marathons raising significant amounts for charity. His other interests include shooting and golf. He and Lady Forte are both Trustees of the London Symphony Orchestra.
Olga Polizzi is the eldest of the late Lord Forte’s five daughters and is a younger sister to Sir Rocco.
Since 1996, Olga Polizzi has been working with Sir Rocco to build a new luxury hotel company, Rocco Forte Hotels, of which she and her brother are the major shareholders. Olga Polizzi is Director of Design at Rocco Forte Hotels and Deputy Chairman of the company.
Prior to the creation of Rocco Forte Hotels, Olga Polizzi was a Main Board Director and Director of Building and Design at Forte plc from 1983 to 1996, when it was taken over by Granada.
Olga was a Westminster Councillor from 1989 to 1994, and was Vice Chairman of Planning. Olga Polizzi is currently on the Council of Edward VII Hospital; Board of the Landau Forte Academies; Chairman of The Trusthouse Charitable Foundation; Trustee of The Italian Medical Charity; Trustee of St. Mary’s School Ascot; Trustee Lord Forte Foundation.
Olga Polizzi has two of her own hotels in the West Country – Hotel Tresanton in Cornwall and Hotel Endsleigh in Devon.
Olga Polizzi is also a director of Miller’s Bespoke Bakery, which she and her daughter Alex Polizzi helped to establish in 1997.
Olga is married to the author William Shawcross; she has two daughters, as well as a step-son and step-daughter.
Karim Naffah is the Managing Director at Rocco Forte Hotels.
Karim is responsible for the continuation of the company’s successful business performance and works with Sir Rocco Forte on the future strategic development of the business.
Prior to joining Rocco Forte Hotels in 2010, Karim gained more than 18 years of experience in strategy and finance roles in the leisure and hospitality industry.
His previous roles include strategy director at Bass PLC/Six Continents PLC where he played a key part in the business planning and performance management of the FTSE 100 Group. In addition he oversaw the strategic transformation of the Group culminating in the successful demerger of Six Continents hotel and pub divisions.
Following the demerger, Karim joined Mitchells & Butlers in 2003 as its finance director to establish the pubs group as an independently listed company. He implemented new performance and reporting measures; devised a successful business securitisation model to finance the group; and oversaw the acquisition of 239 pub restaurants in 2006.
Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Karim was educated at Harrow School and Lincoln College, Oxford University. He speaks English, French, Arabic and Spanish. Post university he spent seven years with management consultancy Bain & Company.
Natalie Rucellai joined Rocco Forte Hotels in 2018 as PR and Communications Director.
She was previously Director at PRCO, a global communications group offering integrated solutions for the tourism, real estate and luxury sectors, working with clients like Four Seasons Hotels, Belmond, Bulgari, Hudson Yards New York and many others including Rocco Forte Hotels. Natalie also worked on PR at Giorgio Armani, was the European editor at Peoplenews, and freelanced at Vogue Italia and Conde Nast Traveller.
Natalie is a founder of "Corri la Vita", the largest cultural charity walk in the world, based in Florence, raising funds to fight breast cancer. Her charity has donated over 8 million Euro and cured 500.000 women over the years.
Of dual British and Italian nationality, Natalie graduated from London University and has two grown children, Giulio and Aloisia.
Jan Arnold is the company’s Vice President of Sales.
He reports to Maurizio Saccani, Director of Operations and is a member of the Executive Committee of the board.
In this role with Rocco Forte Hotels, Jan directs the team of 24 Regional Sales Directors and Managers located in twelve countries in Europe, Middle East, the Americas and China.
Jan, a native German, worked for Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts for 17 years before joining Rocco Forte in November 2019.
In 2002, Jan started his career with Four Seasons in Boston as a trainee in operational and administrative departments, which gave him a good understanding of all aspects of a 5* Deluxe Hotel.
Jan then held various Sales roles within Four Seasons, mainly within the Worldwide Sales Offices, first in London as a Group Sales Coordinator in 2004, working his way up to Associate Regional Director of Sales in March 2008. In 2010, the position of Regional Director of Sales for the Frankfurt Worldwide Sales Office opened up - after 10 years abroad this was a welcome opportunity to return home and on September 13th, Jan joined the team in Frankfurt. After being promoted to Director of Sales EMEA, Jan and his family relocated to Dubai in April 2016 to join the Four Seasons Corporate Head Office for Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Jan holds an MBA for Marketing from Johnson&Wales University, Providence, Rhode Island.
Jan is passionate about golf, enjoys travelling and cooking/barbequing. Additionally, Jan volunteers as a freelance-language teacher in his spare time, introducing his Canadian wife Mavis to the intricacy of the rather complicated German language – a project with immense entertainment value! Jan and Mavis are proud parents to two daughters Zoe (born in 2013) and Sophie (born in 2017).
Lydia Forte is Group Director of Food & Beverage at Rocco Forte Hotels. She is the daughter of Sir Rocco Forte and the niece of Olga Polizzi.
In her role, she is responsible for the concepts, management and performance of the group’s restaurants and bars. This includes developing new restaurant concepts and maintaining quality of food and service in all the restaurant and bar outlets within the hotels. It also involves responsibility for profits, including cost control and driving of sales.
Before starting work for Rocco Forte Hotels full-time in February 2014, Lydia managed a new restaurant opening in Chelsea, The Markham Inn, and led two projects to update and improve two restaurants - HIX Mayfair in London and Bocconi in Brussels. She most recently completed an MBA at INSEAD in 2013.
After school, Lydia completed a professional cookery course at Leith’s, a 4-month rotating internship at Hotel Astoria in St. Petersburg, and spent time in Sales & Marketing at Brown’s Hotel. During her time studying Modern History at Oxford University, Lydia trained as a Maitre d’ at The Wolseley. In 2010 she went to work as a waitress at HIX Soho. She continued to work her way up through front of house operations in the restaurant industry, also completing stints in restaurant accounting and reservations.
Lydia speaks fluent English, Italian and French, conversational Spanish and basic Russian.
Irene Forte oversees Wellness at Rocco Forte Hotels. She is the daughter of Sir Rocco Forte, Founder and Chairman of the group, and the niece of Olga Polizzi, Deputy Chairman and Director of Design.
Irene joined the Rocco Forte Hotels’ Head Office team in January 2013 as a Quality Standards Executive to create brand standards that included a new service philosophy and values. These have since been established by Irene in all of the Rocco Forte properties.
In 2014, her role expanded to Brand Manager where she was awarded £250k in government funding to create a careers and development tool for the hospitality industry leading to the “Map My Future” app that launched in August 2016.
In 2017, her title changed to Group Project Director. Whilst still overseeing elements of learning and development for the hotels, she started overseeing the Spa and Fitness proposition across the group, launching Rocco Forte Spas which included a new spa philosophy and healthy eating aspect called Rocco Forte Nourish.
In 2018, Irene became Wellness Director for the group and launched her eponymous skincare line, Irene Forte Skincare, a nutrient-rich, natural and considered line that is inspired by Sicily and handmade in Italy. The products are used in all Rocco Forte Spas and as in-room amenities. They are also retailed outside the group, with a dedicated e-commerce platform and some key luxury retailers, such as Net-a-Porter.
After graduating from Oxford University with a BA in French and Italian, Irene completed a 6-month development programme at Brown’s Hotel, London, concentrating on crucial hotel departments: sales and marketing, accounts, revenue management and guest reception. Prior to this, Irene was Communications Manager at Verdura Resort, Sicily.
Irene is fluent in English, French and Italian and a keen runner, having qualified as semi-professional in the London marathon. She is an ambassador for a number of charities and sits on the board of the Global Wellness Summit.
Irene’s awards include:
2016 Cater Rising Star Award
2016 Health & Nutrition Catey Award for launching the Rocco Forte Nourish programme used across Rocco Forte Hotels
2017 Acorn 30 Under 30
2019 Irene Forte Skincare Awards
Attracta Beauty Award
Baby Beauty Award
Wedding Ideas Beauty Award
Charles Forte is Director of Development at Rocco Forte Hotels. He is the son of Sir Rocco Forte, Founder and Chairman of the group, and the nephew of Olga Polizzi, Deputy Chairman and Director of Design.
Charles joined the Rocco Forte Hotels' central team in October 2016. As Director of Development, Charles’s role consists of identifying new hotel opportunities, assessing prospective markets for expansion of the company’s portfolio of hotels and finding capital investors to execute projects of interest.
Since joining, Charles has played an instrumental part in development projects that include Hotel de la Ville, Rome; Villa Igiea, Sicily; and The Carlton Milan. Following the success of Rocco Forte House Rome, Rocco Forte House Milan will open in 2024.
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