British-born Italian hotelier and head of Forte plc (formerly Trusthouse Forte), which owned 800 hotels and over 1,000 restaurants, until the family business was targeted by Granada plc, which launched what was, in late 1995, one of the largest hostile corporate takeovers in Britain. The deal was completed in 1996. As a result, Forte lost the company and had to start over again, building up the new RF Hotels group which by 2007 comprised 12 luxury establishments.
After his father's retirement in 1993, Rocco Forte became chair and chief executive of Forte plc. He focused on the hotel development operation, expanding the group into Europe. As part of this strategy he sold the contract caterer, Gardner Merchant, to a management buyout in 1993. Gerry Robinson's Granada, having been rejected as a prospective buyer for the company, launched its hostile £3.3 billion bid for Forte in November 1995. In the ensuing bitter corporate struggle, Forte agreed to sell all his catering business to Whitbread if the bid failed, but his largest institutional shareholder, Mercury Asset Management, finally accepted an increased offer from Granada, taking the bid to nearly £4 billion. The Forte family received about £325 million before tax for their stake, but could not use the family name for alternative ventures. Rocco Forte instead developed a new luxury hotel range, RF Hotels. In 1999 he announced the launch of the first online hotel-room auction site, and invested in Lobster, an Internet retailer of quality foods. Forte was knighted in 1994 for services to the UK tourist industry.
Forte was born in Bournemouth, England, the only son of Lord Charles Forte, who emigrated to England from Italy in 1913 and started the family empire from a milk bar in Edinburgh in 1934. Educated at Downside School, Rocco Forte read modern languages at Pembroke College, Oxford. After graduating with an MA, he qualified as a chartered accountant, becoming a Fellow of the profession in 1979. Before officially joining the Forte family business, he worked for the Dixon Wilson accountancy firm in the City of London
Unable to buy back the hotels from Granada after the take over, Forte then bought the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh in January 1997 and started to develop a new luxury hotel range in Europe through a new vehicle, RF Hotels. The group includes the Astoria and D'Angleterre in St Petersburg, the newly built St David's Hotel and Spa in Cardiff, Hotel Amigo in Brussels, Hotel de Russie in Rome, and Hotel Savoy in Florence.