Four In Hand sale highlights Waugh hotels divide

30 April, 2018 by Vanessa Cavasinni

While the future of the Four In Hand remains uncertain, potential changes to the Waugh brothers’ businesses Waugh Hotel Consultancy and Public House Management Group have come to light.

Increasing speculation and uncertainty about the future of the famed Four In Hand hotel has led to claims that brothers Ashton and Mitchell Waugh will be restructuring the portfolios under Waugh Hotel Consultancy and Public House Management Group.

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Paddington resident and member of the local group ‘Save the Four’ John Hartigan sought a meeting with Ashton Waugh to discuss the unpopular decision to sell the Four In Hand as a residence. At the meeting, Waugh said that the hotel has been listed with both Ray White’s residential and hotel brokerage divisions, and that the brothers would consider any offers and make their decision based on the best financial outcome. Andrew Jolliffe of Ray White Hotels confirmed to Australian Hotelier that he has been engaged to sell the venue as a hotel, with or without its EGMs.

During Hartigan’s meeting with Ashton Waugh, the hotelier also mentioned a restructuring of the family’s two companies.

“I sought a meeting with Ashton Waugh who pointed out that he and his brother Mitchell were in the process of splitting their suite of assets into separate companies to be managed individually by each brother.”

Waugh Hotel Consultancy was established in the early 2000s, and currently operates several hotels in New South Wales, including Hotel Rose Bay, the Ritz Hotel and Mr Tipply’s in Sydney; as well as regional pubs the Ettalong Beach Hotel and the Welcome Inn Hotel in Thirlmere. Ashton Waugh has consistently served as the business’ managing director.

Public House Management Group was established in 2015 by the Waugh family, with a bigger focus on F&B pubs within Sydney. Mitchell Waugh has taken the reins for PHMG, serving as managing director. Besides the Four In Hand, venues under the PHMG umbrella include the Woollahra Hotel, The Royal Hotel Paddington, The Buena in Mosman, and the Narellan Hotel.

A spokesperson for Public House Management Group stated that Ashton attended the meeting with Hartigan on behalf of Mitchell, who was out of town at the time.

“The assets that each brother manages are owned by the entire Waugh family. But the management of each brand has been independent, ie. Mitchell looks after PHMG venues and Ashton looks after Waugh Hotel Consultancy venues.”

In addition to Hartigan’s comments, an industry source suggested that the Waugh family is set to reshuffle the assets under the two businesses, with several PHMG venues soon to be transferred to the Waugh Hotel Consultancy business, or a new pub entity.

“As we approach EOFY the Waugh family are working on their annual plans. At this stage the only movement you will see is the sale of the Four in Hand. All other assets will remain under their current management structure,” stated the spokesperson.

The PHMG website is currently down, with its IP address not currently found.

Four In Hand’s future

Since the news became public that the Four In Hand was being offered for sale as a residential property, local residents in the Paddington area have been very vocal about their opposition to the move. A group called Save The Four was created, with Paddington residents protesting outside the hotel on Anzac Day. A petition to keep the venue trading as a hotel was also created on Change.org, and currently has over 3000 signatures.

Hartigan said that the move to turn the hotel into a home was a travesty for a venue that has so much history.

“It is part of our unique suburb’s social heritage and deeply offensive that it can withdrawn as a public amenity at the whim of an owner who has owned it for only three years and who enjoys a geographic monopoly of pubs in the region.”

Late last week it was announced that the hotel has also been offered for sale with its liquor licence, but Save The Four has no plans of easing its campaign to keep the hotel trading, with Hartigan saying the project still has the group’s “full focus”.

“There is also widespread recognition that while today it is an issue for Paddington residents, tomorrow it is likely to be another suburban pub – unless protections are put in place to preserve heritage buildings and the willy-nilly movement of liquor and gaming licences from one business to another.”