MORE than 850 staff at an Oxfordshire hotel chain have been assured their jobs are safe after the business was taken over by an American finance giant.

The Four Pillars Hotels group, which includes four properties in the county, including two in Oxford, has been bought by global investment firm Starwood Capital Group for an undisclosed sum.

Charles Holmes, the chief executive of Four Pillars Hotels, stressed the move was good news for the business and staff as it would allow the company to expand in the near future. He said: “We added 22 rooms to the Sandford hotel last year and we have planning permission for a further 20.

“We are also talking to the new owners about plans for the hotel in Oxford.”

He added: “Over the past four year we have traded very strongly despite challenging conditions.

“We want to move forward and to do that we have needed new investment. One of my challenges has been to keep the bright young people we have in the business.”

Mr Holmes said he had actively sought the new investment and identified Starwood as the best fit for the firm after talking to “a lot of people”.

Four Pillars will stay as the brand for the hotels at Witney, Sandford, Abingdon and Oxford, which employ about 650 staff alone, as well as properties at Cotswold Water Park near Cirencester and Tortworth Court, Gloucestershire.

But Mr Holmes will step down as chief executive and take on an advisory role to the business, which has its head office in Witney.

Starwood was established in 1991 and since then has raised £14m of capital and acquired assets of more than £27m including a Harrogate-based hotel chain.

Kevin Colket, senior vice-president at Starwood, said: “Four Pillars offers high-quality, full-service, four-star hotels in superb locations.

“We look forward to building on the company’s operational excellence and its longstanding client focus.”

The hotels comprise of 863 rooms which are either owned, leased or managed by Four Pillars.

Last year’s work at the Sandford hotel also included a conservatory, gazebo and extra dining and conference space.