11 APRIL 1998, Page 26

A nice place for lunch

MY BID for the Savoy group is still on the table — the one in the Grill, on the left, by the window. I speak (you will recall) for a consortium of lunchers who want to put it on the bill. The directors have preferred to recommend a bid from Blackstone of New York, accepting that the time and price are right for the defenders of Fortress Savoy to come over with their hands full. This must be a bitter-sweet moment for Cazenove, brokers to the Savoy since the 1920s. Thirty years on, when Harold Samuel and Charles Clore were prowling round, Cazenove bought enough shares to keep them out more, in fact, than the Savoy's resourceful chairman, Sir Hugh Wontner, could then pay for. Cazenove took the shares onto their own books, fed them out to suitable holders, and through successive sieges held the fortress's defence together, knowing where every last high-voting share was holed up. It was Geoffrey Barnett, when Cazenove's senior partner, who encouraged his colleagues to put business in their client's way: 'You'll find the Savoy a jolly nice little place for lunch,' he told them, `and nice and handy because you can get to it on a number 11 bus.'