Giles Shepard

GILES SHEPARD CBE Managing director of the Savoy and the Ritz hotels

Born: 1 April, 1937, in London. Died: 21 April, 2006, in Hampshire, aged 69.

HE WAS a large distinguished man who dressed in a rather flamboyant manner, but Giles Shepard was the managing director of two of London's most renowned hotels and he dressed to be noticed and provide a certain charisma and class.

Shepard guided the Savoy from a famed but insular establishment to being one of the most luxurious hotels in the world and developed its cuisine to international standards. Shepard was never happy with the Forte involvement in the Savoy, and so, in 1994, he left the group after accepting an offer from the Barclay brothers who had just bought the exotic Ritz on London's Piccadilly. Shepard reshaped the Ritz and built it up into one of the foremost hotels in the country.

Giles Richard Carless Shepard attended Eton College and then served with the Coldstream Guards. He worked in the brewing industry until, in 1976, he joined the Savoy and then three years later became the managing director. Shepard brought to the Savoy a more contemporary style. He appointed staff that were specialists and could oversee every detail of the running of the hotel. Shepard, himself, supervised everything from the flowers in the reception area to the choice of fruit awaiting guests in their room - not to mention the music played by the harpist in the drawing room.

Shepard was a stickler for etiquette and titles, but loved parties, especially the Savoy's centenary celebrations. He expanded the group by buying the charming Lygon Arms, in Worcestershire, but in the Eighties there was a fierce battle for ownership of the Savoy spearheaded by Lord Forte. The financial complications were considerable as the Savoy had an antiquated voting structure and their B shares were tightly held: mostly by family and friends in the City. Much mud was thrown - not least by Lord Forte who said publicly that if he won, he would offer Shepard the job of head doorman. So, when Forte did win control and Rocco Forte joined the board, Shepard's days were numbered.

Shepard had got to know the Barclay brothers at the Savoy and they were keen to offer him the post of deputy chairman of their most recent purchase - the Ritz Hotel. Shepard breezed into the rather staid establishment. Despite its grandeur and boast of having one of the most beautiful dining rooms in Britain, it had become rather set in its ways. He upgraded the luxury establishment immediately. Again, he employed excellent staff - many of who had come with him from the Savoy, such was his popularity.

Shepard insisted that the traditional strict dress code be enforced and ensured that the standard of room service and the dining room facilities were upgraded. He also expanded the Ritz's famous afternoon teas, such that they had to be booked weeks in advance.

Slowly it became a place to hold grand parties and events, and Shepard oversaw the party attended by Prince Charles and his future wife - it was to be their first official public photo opportunity - with benign efficiency. Everything went like clockwork and their departure from the side door of the hotel was one of the most photographed exits.

Shepard was popular with guests and staff alike. His ebullient personality soothed many a ruffled client and on retiring from the Ritz it was said of him, "He's out of central casting - the English gentleman who sounds like a lord and speaks like Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady".

He retired from the Ritz in 2004 and took on some positions in the City. He also served on various charities. Interestingly, Shepard was devoted to needlework and was on the council of the Royal School of Needlework. He was warded the CBE in 1994 and is survived by his wife, Peter, and their son and daughter.