Ian Bateman, a career that helped shape Sotogrande

Ian Bateman, the man who founded Holmes Sotogrande, is retiring and handing over the reigns to a new generation. As someone who helped to shape the future of his adopted home he can look back at an exciting and varied career.

It all started with a group of friends that came down to play golf on the Costa del Sol. Having stayed in Los Monteros and played the courses of Marbella they followed their noses to this wonderful resort they had heard about, Sotogrande, and were duly impressed. The following year they convinced Ian, who ran a travel agency in the east of England, to join them, and while the golfers spent the day on the Real Club de Golf Sotogrande and Las Aves (as Valderrama was then called) Ian explored this beautiful resort on the edge of the Mediterranean.

Keen to come back on a regular basiholmes001_tonemappeds, the group of friends decided to buy one of the newly completed golf apartments together and rent it out when they weren’t using it. However, this was 1977 and at the time there was no rentals or property management infrastructure, so Ian took it upon himself to organise the cleaners and maintenance as well as arranging golf trips through his UK business. Before long he had several dozen properties under management and was bringing large numbers of golfers and other visitors to Sotogrande.

He came to know the resort’s management well, including the newly appointed General Manager Miguel Preysler, who arranged a meeting with Sotogrande’s legendary founder, Colonel McMicking. At this rather eccentric encounter Ian proposed his ideas for promoting Sotogrande more effectively, which resulted in his opening a property management office here. He and his wife Jackie were still running their travel business in the UK too, but impressed with their initiatives the management of the resort invited Ian to present a proposal for the commercialisation of the hotels.


It was when he was subsequently offered the job of implementing the business plan that the family made the permanent move to Spain, with Ian running Sotogrande’s Tennis Hotel and Jackie managing what was to become its first real estate agency. “We were still mostly focused on property management and gardening services at the time,” says Ian, “but after the first property sale in 1979 the emphasis gradually shifted and by the early nineties we handed the gardening business over to the people that were working in it.”

To make the hotel operation more efficient Ian had had to cut back staff numbers significantly, but ended re-employing most people in the property management and gardening companies, as well as in the catering businesses that sprung up at the golf clubs. A further boost to Sotogrande’s popularity came during the 1982 World Cup, when Ian heard that the Scottish football team and their entourage had booked into Málaga’s Golf Parador. “I got in touch with the Scottish FA’s secretary and offered Sotogrande as a more private alternative. They were initially a bit sceptical, but when he and coach Jock Stein came over and inspected the facilities they were bowled over.”

Ian made an offer they couldn’t refuse, but as an Ipswich Town man insisted their three Scottish players, Alan Brazil, John Wark and George Burley be selected, which the coach said he would take into consideration. Another coup came when Ian arranged for the clubhouse to be used as a press conference complete with live satellite feeds courtesy of Telefónica, but on the condition that Sotogrande was promoted in the process. “The hotel was up for sale, and with occupancy rates having risen from 11.5% to 72%, the books looking healthy and promotion during the world cup, it didn’t take long before we found a buyer.”

After this he joined the burgeoning real estate business, which moved into its current offices at the Paniagua centre in 1985. “We’ve seen up and down cycles, but have always felt very privileged that we could live, work and bring our children up in such a beautiful spot,” says Ian, who is proud of the reputation attached to Holmes Sotogrande and the kind of business he can hand over to his son Ben. “Ben and Jackie will oversee the continued evolution of the business in a changing market, but we continue to hold on to the principles that have earned us such a good name,” and though Ian is retiring he leaves a legacy that has helped to shape not only Holmes but also Sotogrande itself.


By Jackie Cruz - Manifesto · June 16th 2014