Gavyn Davies, the former Chairman of the BBC, is behind a multi-million pound plan to rejuvenate Islay's Machrie Hotel and turn it into major golf resort. Mr Davies, together with his wife Baroness Sue Nye - Gordon Brown's former Downing Street gatekeeper - bought the Machrie for about £1.3 million earlier this month. The Machrie Hotel and Golf Resort has struggled financially for several years and eventually went into administration at the end of last year. However, Mr Davies and Lady Nye hope to turn the Machrie into one of Scotland's premier golf destinations and are prepared to invest several million pounds in achieving that aim.
The detailed plans have yet to be finalised but it is understood they are looking at completely gutting and renovating the existing hotel, possibly building a top-quality spa and even - eventually - constructing a second golf course. The buyers believe the addition of a second course could turn the resort into one of most appealing golf resorts in the country. There is evidence from around the world that second courses often cause a massive increase to the number of visitors to an area, sometimes bringing in as many as four times as many golfers as were attracted to just the one course. All the other plans are yet to be decided and will depend on the results of a feasibility study due to be completed by the end of this month. Continue reading....
The buyers have not set out an exact timetable for the development but they hope to have the first phase - including the revamped hotel - ready sometime next year. Mr Davies, the Chairman of the BBC between 2001 and 2004, is a former Goldman Sachs banker and former economic adviser to the UK Government. He resigned from the BBC following the Hutton report which was critical of the organisation. He is reported to have earned more than £150 million in investments and is a very keen golfer.
Lady Nye is not understood to be an enthusiastic golfer but is very keen on Islay and the combination of her passion for the island and Mr Davies' enthusiasm for golf are understood to have inspired their grand plans for the Machrie. The scheme is expected to provide a major boost for employment as well as bringing in thousands more tourists, particularly from North America and Scandinavia.
It is understood that Mr Davies and Ms Nye are in the process of taking over the salaries of the four members of staff employed to maintain the empty hotel and look after the golf course and expect to hire several more employees in the near future. Mr Davies and Ms Nye have bought the Machrie through a limited liability partnership which will then hand over the day-to-day development of the project to Golf3000 and G3K, two consultancies specialising in golf resorts, travel and marketing.
The buyers know the re-vamped Machrie will need enough quality to appeal to the North American market but also be affordable enough to keep the locals onside who are crucial to the resort's viability during the lean winter months. But they believe that the combination of Islay's reputation as a top whisky tourist destination, with its eight distilleries, and the golf will make it very saleable in Germany, in Scandinavia, in the United States and in Canada, which are all top target markets.
In the meanwhile the new owners have launched a new website which you can visit at www.machrie.net
This story was published with kind permission of the Ileach local newspaper.