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Charles Carmine Forte, Baron Forte /ˈfɔːrt/ (26 November 1908 – 28 February 2007) was a Scottish-Italian caterer and hotelier of Italian origin who founded the leisure and hotels conglomerate that ultimately became the Forte Group.[1][2]

The Lord Forte
Charles Forte, Baron Forte.jpg
Carmine Forte

(1908-11-26)26 November 1908
Mortale, Italy
Died28 February 2007(2007-02-28) (aged 98)
London, United Kingdom
OccupationCaterer and hotelier
Known forForte Group
Spouse(s)Irene Mary Chierico


Childhood and educationEdit

Charles Forte was born as Carmine Forte in Mortale, now Monforte, Casalattico, in the province of Frosinone, Italy on 26 november 1908. He emigrated from Italy to Scotland at the age of four with his family.[3]

He attended Alloa Academy and then St. Joseph's College, Dumfries as a boarder, followed by two years of studies in Rome.[4]

Early careerEdit

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.[4] 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.[4] 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.[citation needed]

Later careerEdit

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 non-controlling majority stake in the Savoy Hotel.

The Grierson-Blumenthal stake became a legally "forced" acquisition by the group. It had 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 the prejudice to shareholders was realised in the late 1970s (including possible prosecution under the Companies Act) which obliged its acquisition as a subsidiary.

Forte was the CEO from 1971 and chairman from 1982 (when his son Rocco took over as CEO) of the Group. Happy Eater and the five Welcome Break major road service outlets were bought from Hanson Trust PLC on 1 August 1986. In the 1990s, the company increased its nominal capital and agreed to the public listed companies compliance regime to become Forte Group plc.

Forte passed full control to his son Rocco in 1993, but soon the plc 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.[3] He is buried in West Hampstead Cemetery.

Honours and awardsEdit

Forte was knighted by The Queen Mother in 1970[5] and created a life peer on 2 February 1982 as Baron Forte, of Ripley in the County of Surrey.[6] 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, whose family had an important british import/export business in beverages. From the 1950s, Forte lived with an extended family including his parents and children at Greenway Gardens in Frognal, Hampstead, London.[7] 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:

  • The Hon. Sir Rocco Forte (b. 1945 as Rocco John Vincent Forte), who was knighted in 1995[8]. On 15 February 1986, he married Aliai Giovanna Maria Ricci in Rome. They have three children together:
    • Lydia Irene (b. 1987)
    • Irene Alisea (b. 1988)
    • Charles Giovanni (b. 1991)
  • The Hon. Olga Forte CBE (b. 1947), who was married to the late Count Alessandro Polizzi[9] & then The Hon. William Shawcross
  • The Hon. Marie Louise Forte (b. 1950)
  • The Hon. Irene Forte (b. 1956), who was married to US Ambassador John Danilovich
  • The Hon. Giancarla Forte (b. 1959)
  • The Hon. Portia Forte (b. 1964)

Irene, Lady Forte died in 2010, and she is buried with her husband. His ancestry is centred on records of his birthplace Mortale, now Monforte in Casalattico, Lazio. The Forte family tree has now been fully mapped.[10] Other notable family members include Alex Polizzi, star of the Hotel Inspector Television series and Lisa Forte, social engineering expert and public figure awarded and named one of the Top 100 Women in Tech in 2018.


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b "Hotel baron Lord Forte dies at 98". BBC News Online. 28 February 2007.
  4. ^ a b c Cowe, Roger (1 March 2007). "Obituary – Lord Forte". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
  5. ^ "No. 45152". The London Gazette. 17 July 1970. p. 7941.
  6. ^ "No. 48883". The London Gazette. 5 February 1982. p. 1621.
  7. ^ Charles Forte (1986). Charles Forte – Autobiography. London: Sedgewick.
  8. ^ "No. 54058". The London Gazette. 9 June 1995. p. 8075.
  9. ^ Rivkin, Annabel (20 January 2012). "Alex Polizzi, a most unlikely sex bomb". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  10. ^ Forte, Paul. "Forte Family Tree". Retrieved 21 March 2018.