Image source, Champneys
Dorothy Purdew OBE, founder of the spa chain Champneys, has died aged 91.
From a working class background, the entrepreneur launched the upmarket chain as a place for the wealthy and famous to recharge.
She went on to become one of the most successful businesswomen in the UK. The Champneys brand is now valued at more than £300m.
"It is with great sadness, that we announce the death of our owner and chairperson," a spokesperson said.
"Dorothy could never believe a girl from a working-class background could become one of the world's most influential spa operators. Champneys became her life."
They added: "Even into her nineties, she would read the guest feedback every morning, eager to learn of how the business could improve."
Ms Purdew, who grew up in Clapham, London, started her weight loss business, WeightGuard, at the age of 38 with just £60 as start-up capital. Just five people attended the first class.
But the business quickly grew to more than 70 slimming clubs in the south east of England before purchasing its first health farm property eight years later in 1978.
With her late husband, Bob, and son Stephen, she went on to buy the health clubs Henlow Grange, Springs, Forest Mere and finally Champneys Tring.
The Purdew family then created the Champneys group in 2002, with all four of their properties where her clients have included stars of TV and film, sports personalities and the rich and famous.
Once a favoured spot for Princess Diana, the brand started to face more competition in the noughties as other luxury spa brands entered the market.
During the pandemic Mrs Purdew's son and co-founder, Stephen, spoke to the press about how lockdown restrictions were hurting the business, costing it millions of pounds. The company was forced to furlough staff and make redundancies.