Tory chairman Ben Elliot’s Quintessentially gears up for a sale

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The luxury concierge service founded two decades ago by Tory chairman Ben Elliot is gearing up for a sale, a senior insider has said.

Quintessentially is fielding several takeover approaches with hopes of securing a deal as soon as possible, according to sources, though advisers have not yet been appointed.

The company was founded in 2000 by Mr Elliot – nephew of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and one of the best-connected men in Britain – alongside co-founders Aaron Simpson and Paul Drummond.

It offers tailor-made services to clients ranging from holidays and property to private parties and personal shopping.

Quintessentially’s advertised services include securing invitations for wealthy clients to exclusive events at No 10 and Buckingham Palace, VIP packages to festivals around the globe and private meetings with celebrities.

Its ultra-rich clients are said to include celebrities, chief executives and heads of states, as well as corporate clients. HSBC and British Airways both used Quintessentially’s concierge services, but opted not to renew their contracts in 2018.

Quintessentially touted plans to build its own 220-metre superyacht, billed as the world’s largest luxury boat, though the vessel is yet to materialise.

But the company ran into trouble last year as lockdown restrictions hammered sales, prompting auditor BDO to sound the alarm over its future.

Quintessentially secured some breathing space in August when it struck a deal to amend the terms of loans from World Fuel Services, a US shareholder that replaced Barclays as its sole lender.

The company is yet to file accounts for the year to April 2020, which are now eight months overdue. Financial statements for the previous year were filed more than 15 months late, which the business blamed on a major restructuring of its subsidiaries and the impact of the pandemic.

A source said that directors were hoping to sell before filing the latest set of accounts.

Last year Quintessentially tapped Darren Ellis, a former adviser to the company, as its chief executive to replace Annastasia Seebohm, who quit after a painful year of pandemic cuts during which the firm slashed half its workforce.

Mr Ellis, an investment banker who has held roles at Zeus Capital and Canaccord Genuity, was tasked with shoring up Quintessentially’s finances after a turbulent period.

The move to sell comes after the company’s co-founder Mr Drummond stepped down as a director this month due to personal reasons.

If completed, a sale is likely to mark a payday for Mr Elliot, who has served as co-chairman of the Conservative Party since 2019 and also holds a 20pc stake in Hawthorn Advisors, the PR agency he co-founded in 2013.

The businessman, who has earned the moniker “Mr Access All Areas” thanks to his impressive contacts book, was mired in controversy over allegations he arranged access to the Prime Minister and Chancellor for Tory party donors. It was also claimed that he used his Quintessentially email account when making these arrangements.

Last year, a spokesman for Elliot said: “Ben Elliot primarily uses his Quintessentially email address and has done so for more than 20 years as opposed to using multiple inboxes.”

Mr Elliot was also caught up in the scandal over the £200,000 refurbishment of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat, which was initially funded by Tory party donors before the Prime Minister footed the bill.

Mr Elliot said he was “very focused on Quintessentially’s continued success”.

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