Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Man with the Midas Touch; When Technology Millionaire Sir Peter Michael, Founder of Classic FM, Ran out of Wall Space at Home, He Bought Two Hotels to Display His Art Collection. RICH CITY

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Man with the Midas Touch; When Technology Millionaire Sir Peter Michael, Founder of Classic FM, Ran out of Wall Space at Home, He Bought Two Hotels to Display His Art Collection. RICH CITY

Article excerpt

Byline: POPPY LINTON

IF HAVING it all is a mansion full of fine art, a vineyard in California and two hotels for gastronomic dining, then Sir Peter Michael, founder of Classic FM, has achieved nirvana.

Fine wine, food, art and music are his pursuits and when his passion for art resulted in him running out of wall space at home, he decided to buy an hotel to provide him with more walls. He could also enjoy having five-star chefs to cook for him and feed a whole new appreciative audience, who travel for miles to eat at The Vineyard, near Newbury in Berkshire, and enjoy more than 1,000 pieces of original art.

His love affair with creativity did not end there. In 1991, Sir Peter designed and built Donnington Valley Hotel. The grounds have become a showcase for major pieces of sculpture and the luxury interior is peppered with bronzes, murals and works by local artists.

International businessman Sir Peter, who is in his late sixties, is a consultant to both the Department of Trade and Industry and the Cabinet Office. No half-measures man, he applies the same enthusiasm to his hobbies as he does his work. So his Californian vineyard produces some of the finest Californian wines, his Donnington golf course has a final four holes regarded as among the hardest in the country and The Vineyard has a Michelin-starred restaurant with the world's best visiting chefs cooking for the rich seam of residents in "Silicone Glen", around Reading and Newbury.

Sir Peter, and his wife Margaret, who is their home and hotel interior designer, came to Berkshire with his work. "I brought the first high-technology company here in the Seventies," he says. "But, of course, the really important company that set up here was Vodafone.

"All of us guys who were in that business needed a place to bring our visiting American friends. There were one or two very quaint English pubs.

They were delightful, but were not ones that we could actually be proud of.

So I decided that when I stopped being a chief executive I would do something about it. Now I like to think that if there's a big deal being done in this part of the world, it's being signed and sealed over dinner at The Vineyard."

When Sir Peter's not in Berkshire (or with his sons Paul and David and his three grandchildren), he's in the Sonoma Valley, a short ride from San Francisco, checking on the progress of his wines - all serious and very high-end, naturally. The son of an oenophile, Sir Peter discovered Californian wines in his thirties.

"I fell in love with northern California while travelling across the Golden Gate Bridge, where the density of people and traffic goes down every mile you drive north.

"It took a few years to find a good vineyard, but eventually this piece of land turned up for sale in the Wall Street Journal. …

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