RTÉ’s At Your Service experts Francis Brennan and brother John put Kenmare hotels on market for €20.5m
The Brennan brothers have said the Park Hotel Kenmare is up for sale.
After 43 years in business, Ireland’s most famous hoteliers, Francis and John Brennan, have taken the decision to exit on a “high”, placing the five-star hotel, together with its sister property, The Lansdowne, on the market.
The Co Kerry hotels are being sold by agent CRBE individually, at €17m for Park Hotel Kenmare and €3.5m for The Lansdowne, or can be purchased together for a combined guide price of €20.5m.
“While the Park has enjoyed a wonderful life, making many people’s stays memorable, the decision was not an easy one to make,” a statement from the brothers said.
”Nothing is forever and while we have invested heavily in recent years to ensure both properties are pristine, we feel the time is right to take some time to ourselves, pursue other interests and business opportunities.”
John Brennan said there was “no one thing” that made the brothers want to sell up but rather a “host of things”.
“We don’t make a decision like this on the back of one particular thing on its own, a whole host of things come into play and you analyse them all.”
In 2019, the brothers decided to re-evaluate their plans for the hotel and instead reviewed the condition of the premises and the market both domestically and internationally.
“We decided the right thing to do at this stage was invest heavily in the hotel and get the property in really good shape. We then had the opportunity to buy the Lansdowne property at the same time, which wasn’t in our original thinking, and we did the same thing down there.
“And then we reassessed it four/five months ago and said to ourselves ‘what do we do now? Do we go again and plan another five-year run or do we go to the market?’
“Francis is 70 and I’m 58, we’ve been in the hotel industry for a combined 85 years between the two of us. We thought the best thing to do would be to bring in new blood and energy into the hotels and put them in shape for their future.
“There’s nothing broken in the Park Hotel and that’s the beauty of what we’re doing, because we’re under no pressure to sell and we’re under no operational difficulties.”
John and Francis are hoping to do “nothing” once the hotel is sold.
“If we wanted something to do we wouldn’t be doing anything because we do enough as it is. Part of the thinking is we just want more time to ourselves.
“This opportunity gives us the ability to rethink and perhaps if we’re interested might learn how to play golf, may decide to open up another business.
“We’re not looking to fill time. We’re going to take a deep breath and then we’ll decide what the next step is.”
Reaction from the staff was “horrendous” said John. “Kleenex sales in Kenmare have gone through the roof,” he joked.
The staff at Park Hotel Kenmare includes four members who are there over 40 years and 20 staff who are with the hotel over 20 years.
“We have a huge long-serving staff who are extremely loyal,” said John.
“It’s not an easy day from a staff point of view, but I think it will get easier as the weeks pass by.
“One person who has been here over 40 years said to me ‘if you were here for another 10 years, I’m here for another 10 years, now I have the ability to think about what I want to do and it’s giving me a second opportunity to enjoy and do something else that I wouldn’t have thought of’. I thought ‘isn’t that a great attitude’.”
Some of the brothers’ fondest memories in the hotel include building the swimming pool and the spa, which John described as a “fantastic project”, along with the refurbishment of the hotel alongside Brian O’Sullivan.
However, John said his fondest memory of all is “the fact we have retained so many staff for so long”, thanking the staff for being loyal to them and the hotel.
“The Park has been hugely significant in their lives, and they have been hugely significant in our lives and as a result the relationship between the two is very strong.”
The hotels will continue to welcome guests “during the 2023 season and until the sales process concludes”, they said.
The Park Hotel, a Victorian landmark in the town and member of Ireland’s Blue Book, was first acquired by Francis Brennan in the 1980s.
Today, the Brennan brothers are majority shareholders, with Fergal Naughton of Glen Dimplex also owning a stake.
During the pandemic, the Brennans splashed out a reported €1m on a major upgrade – at their service was internationally renowned local designer Bryan O’Sullivan, who oversaw a revamp of the reception, cocktail bar and outdoor dining terrace.
Previously, bedrooms had been overhauled – the five-star also boasts a spa, 25m lap pool and two AA Rosette dining room led by chef James Coffey.
Room rates are quoting from €415 a night (with a two-night minimum) this month on its website.
The brothers bought The Lansdowne hotel during Covid, restoring the historic townhouse to slick, four-star status in Kenmare.
"It wasn’t on the horizon, but was too good an opportunity to say no to,” John said at the time.
Brennan-esque touches in the townhouse, which works as a little sister to the Park, range from the continental-style LK Cafe serving 3fe coffee to a new Piano Lounge cocktail bar.
Though the brothers will now pursue other interests and business opportunities, John, his wife Gwen and son Adam will continue to own and run Dromquinna Manor, a popular glamping, self-catering and wedding venue on Kenmare Bay.
Francis, who will be 70 in September, will concentrate on his Collection with Dunnes Stores, along with other book and media projects.
The brothers will also continue presenting At Your Service with RTÉ TV, and are currently recording Series 13.