Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Exclusive: Sir Jim Milne’s Balmoral Group buys the Marcliffe

Multi-million-pound deal spells end of era for Spence family.

Sir Jim Milne shakes hands on the deal with Marcliffe managing director Ross Spence.
Sir Jim Milne, left, shakes hands on the deal with Marcliffe managing director Ross Spence. Image: The Marcliffe and Balmoral Group

One of the north-east’s best-known businessmen, Sir Jim Milne, is about to become the proud owner of the luxury Marcliffe Hotel and Spa in Aberdeen.

The hotel will become part of Balmoral Group – the Granite City-based engineering company Sir Jim, 83, founded and continues to control – from the end of this month.

It follows a multi-million-pound deal between Balmoral and the Spence family, who have operated Aberdeen’s only five-star hotel on its current site at Pitfodels since 1993.

The Marcliffe will in future be run on Balmoral’s behalf by Edinburgh-based Effective Hospitality Management (EHM).

The Marcliffe Hotel and Spa
The Marcliffe Hotel and Spa. Image: The Marcliffe and Balmoral Group

Sir Jim, 83, has been a customer of the prestigious hotel and its restaurant for years.

He told The Press and Journal it is a business he has always “greatly admired”.

The hotel also holds a special place in his heart as it was the venue for his wedding reception when he tied the knot, in 2001, with Lady Gillian Milne.

Sir Jim and Lady Gillian celebrated their nuptuals at the Marcliffe in 2001.
Sir Jim and Lady Gillian celebrated their nuptuals at the Marcliffe in 2001. Image: The Marcliffe and Balmoral Group

Sir Jim’s previous bid was rebuffed

He tried but failed to buy the Marcliffe about eight years ago.

Asked if he had any great plans for the hotel now it is part of Balmoral’s increasingly diverse business portfolio, he said an ongoing refurbishment programme will continue.

Balmoral will invest heavily in “maintaining the quality and standards the Marcliffe is known for”, he said.

Business as usual for staff and guests

The sale also offers continuity for the Marcliffe’s 150-strong workforce and its many customers.

There are currently no plans to change staffing levels.

And there will also be no change to wedding and hotel bookings as a result of the hotel changing hands.

One of the guest rooms at the luxury hotel.
One of the guest rooms at the luxury hotel. Image: The Marcliffe and Balmoral Group

Sir Jim told the P&J he is a great believer in businesses of all kinds being about people and delivering quality customer service. These values are as important for the Marcliffe as they are for Balmoral, the engineering group’s octogenarian chairman and managing director added.

He continued: “The Marcliffe is an Aberdeen institution, and is an establishment very close to my heart.

“I’ve known the Spence family for a long time and it feels like a natural progression for Balmoral.

Aberdeen commitment

“Maintaining the quality and standards that the Marcliffe is known for, while also retaining jobs, is of the utmost importance to us.

“We are completely committed to the Aberdeen community through our backing of Friends of Anchor and other charitable foundations, and we want the Marcliffe to prosper through our ownership.”

Inside the Marcliffe.
Inside the Marcliffe. Image: The Marcliffe and Balmoral Group

Marcliffe managing director Ross Spence will step down at the end of this month, severing family ties with the hotel business acquired by his father, Stewart, in 1979.

Back then, the hotel was on Queens Terrace.

It is more than four years since the P&J revealed Stewart Spence, now 77, had stepped away from running the hotel.

He handed the reins to Ross, who was previously head chef.

‘Bittersweet’ moment

Ross Spence said handing over the keys to the Marcliffe would be a “bittersweet” moment for the family.

The hotelier added: “Balmoral are the perfect fit to continue its legacy.

“As long-time custodians of the Marcliffe brand, our family has cherished and nurtured it with love and dedication.

We are confident Balmoral will honour the Marcliffe’s heritage.” Ross Spence

“So much of our lives have been spent here, and the staff and regular customers have become family over the years – Sir Jim is part of that.

“We are confident Balmoral will honour the Marcliffe’s heritage, and care for it with the same passion and commitment that has been at the heart of our family, so the hotel will thrive for decades more.”

The Marcliffe’s outgoing MD said he would be taking a couple of months off to decide what he wants to do next.

Sir Jim in front of Balmoral logo.
Sir Jim founded Balmoral in 1980. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

Balmoral – founded by Sir Jim in 1980 – operates globally and employs more than 600 people across bases in Scotland, England and Wales.

The group is best known for its buoyancy, storage and protection “solutions” for clients in more than 50 countries around the world. It also owns a business park in Aberdeen.

Balmoral’s bosses aiming for ‘seamless transition’ for Marcliffe

Earlier this year the company said pre-tax profits in 2022-23 were “virtually breakeven” at more than £9 million, while sales from continuing operations surged 37% to £136m.

Looking forward to the Marcliffe joining the group later this month, Balmoral deputy managing director Bill Main said: “With the help of EHM, we are confident we can make it a seamless transition.”

Who are Effective Hospitality Management?

EHM’s website highlights “150 years of senior management experience” leading prestigious hospitality operations over the past 25 years.

The hospitality company’s owners include John Shevlin, a former general manager at Ardoe House Hotel, near Aberdeen.

The group’s chairman is hospitality industry veteran Stephen Carter, whose past roles include spells in charge of top hotels including the Caledonian in Edinburgh and Cameron House on the shores of Loch Lomond.

Conversation