The founders of Discovery Attractions have more than a century of experience in the visitor attractions sector and have been involved in developing, operating and marketing some iconic properties both in the UK and internationally.
Discovery Attractions was founded by Tom Hartley, a serial entrepreneur with a string of successful company launches behind him and Ian McGonigal, who has over 20 years experience in the design and construction of visitor attractions for major operators including Madame Tussaud’s, both in the UK and in New York, Celebrity Encounter in Las Vegas, Ironbridge Gorge Museum, the re-enactment heritage visitor attraction Warwick Castle and the Historic Dockyards in Chatham.
John Lowther, an experienced attractions industry operator, heads up the team as CEO with a proven 20 year track record of opening, developing and operating large, high quality commercial and not-for-profit visitor attractions. John was instrumental in the opening and running of Conkers Discovery Centre and the successful Educational and Park Ranger service situated in the heart of the National Forest. He has also managed several well known attractions such as London’s Vinopolis (350 000 annual visitors) and Altitude (200 000 annual visitors) He turned around the National Brewery Centre in Burton. John was also Director of the successful Trentham Estate in Staffordshire. Set in 750 acres of stunning woodland the site attracts 3 million visitors a year.
Stephen Evans, Chairman, adds broad leisure and hospitality operations experience to the team having just completed a chairmanship of Chill Factor in Manchester where he brought the company back from the brink of administration and quadrupled profits, increasing visitor numbers and retail unit lettings and winning the ski attraction four major awards. His role steering large companies through restructuring and expansion, such as the conversion from Pizzaland to Bella Italia during his five years at Whitbread which turned a £3m loss to a £2m profit the following year, builds on his 10 years of experience at Forte.
Rob Gray has considerable marketing experience in this sector, having consulted for Alton Towers, Thorpe Park , Chessington World of Adventures, Madame Tussauds , Ascot Racecourse and Empire Cinemas. Rob also runs his own marketing firm, Brand Electioneering, specialising in leisure marketing and was a founder of SegKind Ltd, the UK's leading provider of Segway leisure experiences.
Our archaeological consultant Julian Richards, a Nottingham boy, is well known both academically and through his TV programmes such as Blood of the Vikings and Meet the Ancestors.
Anne Foster, our ACA qualified Financial Director brings 20 years’ experience in the Attractions industry with Tussauds Group and Merlin Entertainments alongside her financial acumen. As well as working on many acquisitions and feasibility studies, including Port Aventura and Thorpe Park, she was instrumental, as Head of Finance, in the successful opening and development of the London Eye.
Derek Higton, Service Director for Youth, Families and Cultural Services, at Nottinghamshire County Council said: “We have been working with Discovery Attractions since they were announced as the preferred bidder to develop and manage a new visitor centre and a world class Robin Hood attraction at Sherwood Forest.
“We have continued to meet with and support the Discovery team in their work to progress the project and they are fully aware of our concerns related to progress on securing the required project funding.
“We have agreed with Discovery Attractions a deadline of 31 March 2014 to confirm their funding package to us.
“The County Council remains committed to replacing the existing visitor centre and are currently developing a range of alternative options for consideration by members should the Discovery Attractions plans not come to fruition.”