Charles Forte, Baron Forte

For those of a similar name, see Charles Fort (disambiguation).
The Right Honourable
The Lord Forte
Born Carmine Forte
(1908-11-26)26 November 1908
Mortale, Italy
Died 28 February 2007(2007-02-28) (aged 98)
London, United Kingdom
Citizenship British
Occupation Caterer and hotelier
Known for Forte Group
Spouse(s) Irene Mary Chierico

Charles Carmine Forte, Baron Forte (26 November 1908 – 28 February 2007) was a Scottish caterer and hotelier of Italian origin who founded the leisure and hotels conglomerate that ultimately became the Forte Group.

Childhood and education

Charles Forte was born as Carmine Forte in Mortale, now Monforte, Casalattico, in the province of Frosinone, Italy in 1908. He emigrated from Italy to Scotland at the age of four with his family.[1]

He attended Alloa Academy and then St. Joseph's College, Dumfries as a boarder, followed by two years in Rome.[2]

Early career

After Rome, Forte rejoined his family, who had moved to Weston-super-Mare, where his father ran a café with two cousins. Charles's main training at the age of 21 came in Brighton, where he managed the Venetian Lounge for a cousin.

At 26, he set up his first "milk bar" in 1935, the Strand Milk Bar Ltd, in Regent Street, London, having thoroughly researched the location.[2] Soon he began expanding into catering and hotel businesses. At the outbreak of World War II, Forte was interned in the Isle of Man due to his Italian nationality, but he was released after only three months.[2] After the war, his company became Forte Holdings Ltd and bought the Café Royal in 1954.

In the 1950s, he also opened the first catering facility at Heathrow Airport and the first full British motorway service station for cars at Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, on the M1 motorway in 1959. He purchased the Hungaria Restaurant in Lower Regent St. in 1955.

Later career

Grave of Lord and Lady Forte in West Hampstead Cemetery

Trust Houses Group Ltd and Forte Holdings were merged in 1970 to become Trust House Forte or THF. Through mergers and expansion, Forte expanded the Forte Group into a multibillion-pound business. His empire included the Little Chef and Happy Eater roadside restaurants, Crest, Forte Grand, Travelodge and Posthouse hotels, as well as the wine merchant Grierson-Blumenthal and a majority (although non-controlling) stake in the Savoy Hotel.

The Grierson-Blumenthal stake was a "forced" acquisition by the group. It had originally been a personal holding of Charles Forte and fellow directors of the group, supplying liquor to Forte restaurants and hotels at substantial personal profit, until concern in the late 1970s about prosecution under the Companies Act obliged the directors to incorporate Grierson-Blumenthal as a subsidiary.

Forte was the CEO from 1971 and chairman from 1982 (when his son Rocco took over as CEO) of the Forte Group. Happy Eater and the five Welcome Break service areas were bought from Hanson Trust PLC on 1 August 1986. In the 1990s, the company was renamed as Forte Group plc.

Forte passed full control to his son Rocco in 1993, but soon the Forte Group was faced with a hostile takeover bid from Granada. Ultimately, Granada succeeded with a £3.9 billion tender offer in January 1996, which left the family with about £350 million in cash.

On 28 February 2007, Forte died in his sleep at his home in London, aged 98.[1] He is buried in West Hampstead Cemetery.

Honours and awards

Forte was knighted by The Queen Mother in 1970[3] and created a life peer on 2 February 1982 as Baron Forte, of Ripley in the County of Surrey.[4] He was also a knight of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.


In January 1943, Forte married Irene Mary Chierico, an English woman with Italian origin too. From the 1950s, Forte lived with an extended family including his parents and children at Greenway Gardens in Frognal, north London.[5] They worshipped at the Roman Catholic St. Mary's Church in nearby Holly Lane, Hampstead.

Together, they had six children, five girls and a boy:

Irene, Lady Forte died in 2010, and she is buried with her husband in West Hampstead Cemetery.


  1. 1 2 "Hotel baron Lord Forte dies at 98". BBC News Online. 28 February 2007.
  2. 1 2 3 Cowe, Roger (1 March 2007). "Obituary – Lord Forte". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
  3. The London Gazette: no. 45152. p. 7941. 17 July 1970.
  4. The London Gazette: no. 48883. p. 1621. 5 February 1982.
  5. Charles Forte (1986). Charles Forte – Autobiography. London: Sedgewick.
  6. The London Gazette: no. 54058. p. 8075. 9 June 1995.
  7. Rivkin, Annabel (20 January 2012). "Alex Polizzi, a most unlikely sex bomb". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
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