Rick Cressman: Entrepreneur

PUBLISHED: 00:21 08 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:17 20 February 2013

Rick Cressman

Rick Cressman

He describes himself as an entrepreneur who loves to entertain. That's probably why Rick Cressman has made such a success out of Nailcote Hall, the hotel and country club he rescued from the hands of the receivers 17 years ago.

He describes himself as an entrepreneur who loves to entertain. That's probably why Rick Cressman has made such a success out of Nailcote Hall, the hotel and country club he rescued from the hands of the receivers 17 years ago. He talks to Warwickshire Life editor Colin Clark about his life, his business and his hopes for the future.

Photographs: Cheryl Doshi

It is all systems go as Rick greets me at Nailcote Hall, phone to his ear and ringing again the moment he ends the call he is on.

"It's Willie," he says, referring to his good friend, former snooker ace Willie Thorne, "He's sorting something out for the golf championship, I'll just take this then I'll turn it off," he says apologetically.

But one gets the feeling that it is always "all systems go" with Rick. If he isn't sorting this or organising that, then he just isn't happy. He's a "get things done" sort of man and he wouldn't have it any other way.

At the moment top of the agenda is the British Par 3 Championship that will take place at Nailcote Hall in August on the nine hole Cromwell Course that Rick devised and designed.

Some of Europe's top golfers will compete at the event which will be hosted by British golfing legend Tony Jacklin. There will also be celebrities from the world or sport and showbusiness taking part in two Celeb/Am events as well as the two day Pro/Am Championship.

"It's a lot to organise and it can be very stressful but I love it," laughs Rick, "I'm only happy when I'm busy and I can tell you I'm very, very happy at the moment!"

Rick relaunched the historic Par 3 Championship (formerly known as the British Professional Short Course Championship) back in 1998 and was delighted at the response. The event grew and grew in popularity and now attracts some the European circuit's top players. Setanta are televising this year and Rick is confident that the event will continue to go from strength to strength.

But it isn't the only thing on his busy agenda on the morning we meet. He is involved in countless charity events as well as having a top class, 40-bedroom hotel and country club to run.

Born in Birmingham to American parents Harry and Barbara, Rick's dad had been tempted to England by his own father who had bought a Ford car dealership that was to become Bristol Street Motors - at one time Europe's largest Ford dealership network.

Rick's dad worked closely with Grand Prix champion Jackie Stewart and Tory MP Reggie Bennett on road safety and was instrumental in the introduction of the law making seatbelts compulsory in cars.

Rick attended Stowe School at the same time as Sir Richard Branson and Roger Hodgson who went on to form rock supergroup Supertramp.

He loved his time at the school and credits it with instilling in him both his love of architecture and his liberal attitude to most aspects of life.

After school he took a business degree and, not surprisingly, went into the motor trade. However, the oil crisis of 1974 meant his career opportunities were "somewhat limited" and he went to work as an assistant accountant at a shopfitters company where he rose through the ranks to managing director before he and three colleagues took part in a successful management buyout before they floated the company on the stock market.

"It must be something in the genes but both my grandfather and my father had floated companies and here I was doing exactly the same. I expect it's the entrepreneur in me, I have never been scared to take risks. If you can make things happen then you can succeed - you will work very hard but you will succeed," says Rick.

"You could say that you want to succeed so that you can make money but that's only half of the story. I want to succeed just to prove to myself that I can. In a way, success becomes almost addictive. Enjoying what you do at work is the key and a desire to make things happen"

Rick's business interests continued but it was in the spring of 1991 that Nailcote Hall captured his imagination. At the time it was a 20-bed hotel in the hands of the receivers but Rick could sense the potential in the place.

"It just felt right. I could tell it was a special place. It was in a lovely area and it was a beautiful building, everything about it appealed to me. I had driven past it many times but the first time I really looked at the place was when I thought about buying it. I thought 'right Rick, it's time to get back to work and, by golly, that's exactly what I did'."

Rick had big plans for Nailcote but he was also determined to make his transformation without affecting both the natural and architectural beauty of the historical site.

An extra 20 bedrooms and the creation of Rick's Bar, a popular nightlife venue that attracts some of entertainments top stars, meant he had a lot of excavated earth to get rid of - and it was here that Nailcote's golf course first became a working idea.

"We used the earth to create the landscape for the course. At first we just planned to create three holes so that businessmen staying at the hotel for conferences could have a bit of a knockabout but the thing just kept on growing," says Rick.

But while the course continues to improve Rick is keen to ensure that the environment is also given a helping hand and besides introducing over 200 trees and countless bushes and shrubs he has also created a number of water features to turn the course into a haven for wildlife.

"Over 50 species of birds have been recorded in the grounds as well as foxes, badgers and many other animals. We have RSPB help in placing nesting boxes and we're presently trying to attract more owls to the area. This is a beautiful part of the country and I am determined it will remain so both for the sake of the business and, even more importantly for the environment as a whole."

The environment is just one of many subjects Rick is keen to support and he is more than happy to voice his opinions on a wide rage of topics. Be warned, when Rick has a point to make he doesn't pull his punches!

Reality television, obsession with celebrity, the decline of sports teaching in schools, ASBO's and a lack of respect for self and for others all elicit strong views. But Rick is particularly scathing of the penal system and, many would agree, with good reason. His brother Tommy was murdered by his girlfriend Jane Andrews who was an aide to Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson. It was a very high profile case during which Andrews did much to try and blacken the name of her victim.

"It was a terrible time for all the family and has left me very bitter about the whole judicial system. I think I was at one time in favour of the death penalty but I am not anymore. What I do think though is that if someone is sentenced to 25 years for murder then that is the amount of time they should serve.

"This woman has been in jail for eight years and has not uttered one word of regret, not a single hint of an apology. It will be interesting to see if she suddenly becomes full of remorse once her first parole date comes into view.

"It is a fundamental inadequacy in our system if we allow the taking of someone's life to merit such a low punishment tariff. People are being convicted of murder yet still coming out of prison in less than ten years, is this really a deterrent? Is this really a punishment? I think most people would agree with me, yet it seems little is being done to toughen up the punishments being handed out by the courts."

Rick pauses for thought, obviously moved by memories of the time, but it isn't long before he's back in an upbeat mood and talking about future charity events he is involved with.

With three children from his first marriage that he has a great relationship with, Rick recently married Sue who runs her own events company as well as helping Rick with the organisation of countless Nailcote projects.

"She plays a big part in helping me with the business. Without her support I don't know if I would have got the Par 3 Championship back up-and-running in 2006 after a four year break. She is also a big supporter of the breast cancer charity 'Breast Cancer Care' and has been chosen as one of their models for a new campaign and televised event they are running. She is also producing another 'Pink Ball' at Nailcote in October."

It is while raising money for charity that Rick seems to be at his happiest, he is proud of the fact that in the last decade more than 300,000 has been raised by events at Nailcote - particularly the 'Gentlemen's Night Out' committee of which he is a very active member.

"The great thing about it is that we don't waste money on administration and publicity. Everything is done by the committee and they don't charge a penny, that way we can get the money out to where it's needed," he says.

Mark Mouland, professional golfer and son of six times Welsh champion Sid, pops his head into the room. Among other things Mark runs the golf academy at Nailcote and is, of course, involved in preparations for the forthcoming Par 3 Championship.

He offers to pop back later but I can tell it's important and anyway, I have enough from Rick to write a small book never mind a magazine article. I leave with the promise of a day out on the course with Rick when things aren't quite so busy. The problem is it seems Rick is always this busy, maybe my day of golf will just have to wait.

The Par 3 Championship will be held at Nailcote Hall from Aug 4 to 7. For further details contact 08453 313031 or email BP3@Championsukplc.com or visit www.britishpar3championship.co.uk

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