THE 25-year-old new boss of a Tadcaster-based hotel group has announced plans to expand the company from four to 15 hotels in the next five years.

It is the first major target set by Edward Walsh, who took the helm of his family’s £40 million Commer Group last October after illness forced his father Jim to retire. Edward will be using a multi-million-pound war chest to seek out likely hotels in the north, particularly in York and North Yorkshire, where tourism is strong.

The group’s broad range of commercial property interests includes Town & Village Hotels, which owns two historic North Yorkshire landmarks, the Bridge House at Catterick Bridge and the White Rose at Leeming Bar, and also the George at Piercebridge, near Darlington, and a former coaching inn at Congleton, Cheshire. Now Edward, a former investment banker with Citigroup in London, is on the lookout for suitable acquisitions throughout the north to add to the portfolio.

Jim Walsh built up the business from scratch over 20 years, establishing his reputation by developing and selling chains of pubs located throughout Yorkshire and the north east, before latterly branching out into hotels and other investments. Although Edward was not previously working in the business, he was the planned successor, and so resigned from his banking job to ensure continuity of control.

He said: “Obviously the last few months have presented me with many challenges, but having worked very closely with my father since an early age I have a very good understanding of the business, and of course my banking experience is extremely useful. “After a comprehensive review, I see the hotels business as providing a very good opportunity for profitable growth, and we are now looking forward to developing this over the long term. We will look for more hotels that fit the current mould – character properties in appealing locations and with facilities for conferences and private functions.

“We are also going to develop predominantly as a directly managed operation rather than the previous policy of leasing the hotels to independent operators,” he said.