How the other half lived – now it’s your turn

Von Essen Hotels

Once upon a time there was a chap called Andrew Davis who successful borrowed huge sums of money from a couple of British banks then splurged them on a string of luxury hotels, super cars, helicopters and private jets.

In 2011, however, his empire came crashing down around his ears with the Daily Mail describing him as a “five-star fantasist, whose claims of being a Lord and wealthier than the Queen are as bankrupt as his hotel empire”.

He certainly liked to tell some lavish stories, naming his company ‘von Essen’, after his aunt, the Countess von Essen, an Austrian aristocrat.  He adopted her crest and her motto: ‘Ex Cineribus Phoenix Oritur’ (The Phoenix Rises From The Ashes).  He also liked to be addressed as “Lord Davis” by staff.   He even claimed to be a product of Prince Charles’s alma mater, the elite Scottish public school Gordonstoun and a distant cousin of the fabulously rich Astor family.  All of which turned out to be wishful thinking – for the full Daily Mail exposé.

Writer to the aristocracy

What nobody disputes, however, is that over the course of about ten years he built up an impressive portfolio of 33 country house hotels, along with a fleet of Bentleys, Aston Martins and assorted helicopters and jets.  He even acquired the London Heliport (briefly).

With his preference for appearances over reality Mr Davis was keen to promote his assets (even if there were technically borrowed).  His boyfriend, Andrew Onraet, was employed as architect, interior designer and creative director.  Photographer Pete Canning  was hired to shoot the properties and designers were engaged to create lavish brochures for each properties.  The only thing missing was the words and Pete suggested me.

For several years this provided a succession of interesting projects for yours truly – each property had a fascinating story to tell.  I had to do the research, work with the designer to decide on the content for each page, come up with a compelling narrative that would encourage people to come and stay, then write to fit the layout.

I have written hundreds of these pages but here’s a very small selection: