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Meet the visionary behind the Leeu Collection

10 July 2019

April French Furnell

An international entrepreneur of Indian origin, an intrepid traveller and a true citizen of the world, Analjit Singh (aka BAS) is the visionary behind the Leeu Collection (www.leeucollection.com). The Leeu Collection was named after the Afrikaans word leeu (meaning lion), because the Singh surname derives from the Sanskrit simha meaning "lion", thus creating the perfect link between the luxury hospitality portfolio and its founder.

Tell us about your personal journey up to and founding the Leeu Collection.

I come from a business background as the founding chairman of Max India Limited, with interests in life insurance (Max Life), healthcare (Max Healthcare), health insurance (Max Bupa) and senior living (Antara).

My love affair with South Africa started when I first visited the country for the FIFA Soccer World Cup in 2010. I visited Cape Town and ventured into the Cape winelands, where I felt a deep sense of belonging, of energy, of place in the valley of Franschhoek.

I began my search for a property and knew that I had found the right place the minute I set foot on a farm on the slopes of the Dassenberg mountain. This was originally intended to be a private home but then the seeds were planted to transform it into a world-class hospitality and winemaking destination. It is in my DNA to build, to create, to develop…

We bought the property and then those on either side. The three farms, Klein Dassenberg, Dieu Donné and Von Ortloff, were amalgamated within the Leeu Collection portfolio, under the name Leeu Estates. Two more properties in the village of Franschhoek were added – Leeu House and Le Quartier Français. Also a part of the portfolio are Marigold (an authentic Indian restaurant), Tuk Tuk (a microbrewery and taqueria) and Everard Read Franschhoek (a contemporary art gallery featuring the work of prominent southern African artists).

The first acquisition outside of the country was Linthwaite House in England’s Lake District, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, followed by Leeu Villa Querce in Florence, Italy. Although the Leeu Collection’s journey began in South Africa, the international expansions are aligned with our growing hospitality footprint.

Tell us about Leeu Estates. What makes it special?

Leeu Collection’s flagship property, Leeu Estates, is located in the heart of the Franschhoek valley on a working wine farm with spectacular views. The property, which exudes Old World charm combined with modern infrastructure and conveniences, boasts unique landscaped gardens and manicured vineyards. A spectacular spa with a well-equipped gym, pool and relaxation area facing the valley is a one of a kind for the Cape winelands.

The homely atmosphere is accentuated by a superb art collection, sculptures, an exceptional culinary offering and award-winning wines. The wine cellar is an experience in itself. A picture of elegance and beauty with a holistic range of options, the hotel’s rooms and buildings are scattered over Leeu Estates and the seven-star experience can range from privacy to family cottages with two independent and attractive pools for each area. The Wine Studio offers guests tutored tastings of the award-winning, handcrafted ranges of Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines.

Tell us about the location and surroundings.

Situated in the scenic Cape winelands, Franschhoek is a valley of fine wine, gourmet cuisine and luxury hospitality surrounded by majestic mountains. At the heart of the valley, with its Cape Dutch heritage and strong French influences, is the vibrant village of Franschhoek with its award-winning restaurants, craft breweries, chocolatiers, art galleries, boutiques and speciality stores. On the outskirts of the village, Leeu Estates is in a prime position with uninterrupted vineyard, valley and mountain views. Sunsets simply don’t get any better than from here!

In one sentence, why should guests visit?

For the enviable Leeu Collection lifestyle which offers guests unforgettable experiences in superb settings featuring four essential elements – architecture, art, sculptures and landscaping – as well as outstanding cuisine, premium wines and exceptional service.

What type of guest visits the Leeu Collection?

The typical Leeu guest is a discerning global traveller who is looking for unique and immersive escapes in scenic surroundings.

Why did you decide to open a new destination in Florence? How will this hotel complement the collection?

Given the Florence hospitality and tourism boom, as well as the improving economic backdrop rejuvenating the European hotel sector, this new development is well timed and complements our existing portfolio.

Leeu Villa Querce, our luxury hotel and spa set in pristine gardens, will be opening in 2021. The historic property, the former Collegio Alla Querce, is in Via della Piazzuola, near the city’s historic heart and just nine kilometres from Florence’s international airport. The historic centre of the city, with its distinctive medieval skyline and proximity to Tuscany’s famed Chianti wine region, is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For more information, visit www.leeucollection.com

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