Sir Hugh Wontner

Sir Hugh Walter Kingwell Wontner GBE, CVO (22 October 1908 – 25 November 1992) was an English hotelier and politician, closely involved in the Savoy Hotel Group and Theatre for more than fifty years of his life.

Hugh was born in Chiswick, London, and educated at the Oundle School and in France. He joined the London Chamber of Commerce at the age of 19, and became the general secretary of the Hotels and Restaurants Association of Great Britain at 25. In 1938, Sir George Reeves-Smith, managing director of the Savoy, made Hugh his assistant, and within two years he had become managing director. From 1940–1988, he served as director of the Savoy, Claridge’s and Berkeley hotels. During this time, he saw the Savoy Hotel Group through the difficult Second World War period and their restored lustre after the war, becoming Chairman in 1948. He fought off a number of take-over bids to preserve the Group’s independence during the 1950s, 1970s and 1980s.

Hugh’s chairmanship of the Savoy Group lasted until 1984, when he became president. This was a role that, alongside chair of the Savoy Theatre since 1948, he would hold until his death. In 1990, he personally supervised the rebuilding of the Savoy Theatre after it was destroyed by fire. He was also co-founder and president of the International Hotel Association, and Clerk to the Royal Kitchens, a role he had held since the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

An active figure in the City of London, Hugh served as Alderman in the 1960s, Sheriff in 1970, and was Lord Mayor from 1973–74. He was knighted in 1972, and honoured posthumously in the British Travel & Hospitality Industry Hall of Fame in 1996.

Hugh was honoured by the Hall of Fame in 1996.