THE man who founded a leading pub operator is retiring.

Keith Liddell has stepped down from his role as executive deputy chairman of the Inn Collection Group, after being at the helm of the company for more than 15 years.

The group last year bought The Black Swan Hotel in Helmsley and also runs The Stables at Crossbutts, Whitby.

Keith founded the company with his first Northumberland site, The Lindisfarne Inn – formerly The Plough at Beal, near Holy Island in 2006.

He said: “The group has achieved countless accolades and successes over the years and its ability for continual evolution in its people and estate is down to the unique team behind it. I know I am stepping down safe in the knowledge that the company is in the best possible hands.

“We have exciting plans for the future as the group continues its buy and build expansion. This will provide much needed employment opportunities across the north of England, bringing vital economic spend in the communities around our sites and of course, giving our customers more superb places to eat, drink, sleep and explore from.

“But after 45 years of working non-stop in the trade, I’m due a bit of a break and being the customer.”

Managing director Sean Donkin said: “Keith has taught us how to work hard whilst having fun and experiencing the most amazing opportunities. The lessons and memories he has created will be here for many years to come.

“We wish Keith well in his retirement and hope as he reflects on all the years of work and dedication invested into the group and all of us here, he can take pride in knowing he has created a great team with strong values which his trademark kindness runs through.

Sean added: “We hope Keith enjoys spending more time with those he loves the most. The opportunities he has given us all are undoubtedly life changing and I hope that in the years to come we each are able to do the same for others.”

Keith is looking forward to spending more time with his family and pursuing his love of travelling when restrictions are lifted.