UK News Developer behind Denbigh asylum-themed hotel bid collapses with £113m debts

16:27  30 june  2020
16:27  30 june  2020 Source:   dailypost.co.uk

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A hotel company that had plans to redevelop the former North Wales Hospital site has collapsed with debts of £113m.

Signature Living Hotel Ltd, which has several hotels in the Liverpool and another one in Cardiff, has gone into administration unable to service huge debts.

Signature Living Hotel Ltd is the parent company of the group's extended network of 60 hotels, residential developments and other ventures, the Liverpool Echo reports.

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Denbighshire County Council began its bid to purchase Denbigh 's sprawling North Wales Hospital in 2013. It said 28 days had passed without appeal since it served notice on owners Freemont ( Denbigh ) Ltd, so the council was now the new owner.

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It is the largest of six of the group's companies to fall into administration.

Now a new report published by the appointed administrators has laid bare the scale of the problems at the company, who estimate that creditors are owed a total of £113,331,594.

The report also reveals that company boss and founder Lawrence Kenwright recently created a new legal entity and transferred all Signature group shares to it, before being told to transfer them back by the administrators, which he later did.

Matthew Ingram and Michael Lennon, of Duff & Phelps, are joint administrators of the parent company, Signature Living Hotel, and two other group companies - including the Shankly Hotel company, which is also in administration.

They believe that a going concern sale of the company is now unlikely as there are "as there are 'insufficient funds and assets available to enable the company to be rescued".

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a castle with a clock on the tower of the city: The planned redevelopment of the derelict Denbigh hospital © Signature Living The planned redevelopment of the derelict Denbigh hospital

The report adds: "Despite the Group's significant property interests, the level of secured and unsecured indebtedness to which the Company is directly and indirectly liable for significantly outweighs the initial expectations of the value of the Company's direct and indirect assets."

The administrators anticipate that "the Company will be dissolved once all outstanding matters of the administration have been dealt with".

Signature Living was founded by Mr Kenwright and his wife Katy.

In 2018, Mr Kenwright hit the headlines in North Wales when it was revealed he was looking the buy up the old North Wales Hospital in Denbigh and turn it into an asylum-themed hotel complex.

But during one visit to the site, he ended up in a confrontation with Elwyn Pierce, who patrolled the site with is German Shepherd Kaiser.

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The North Wales Hospital (locally known as Denbigh Mental or Denbigh Asylum ) is a Grade II listed building. Designed by architect Thomas Fulljames, building

Mr Kenwright claimed to have been bitten by the dog, in a stand-off that was captured on video, as Mr Pierce confronted him over allegedly trespassing on the property.

Lawrence Kenwright wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Signature Living chairman Lawrence Kenwright © Signature Living Signature Living chairman Lawrence Kenwright

In recent years there have been complaints from creditors who alleged they were not receiving returns on their investments.

The administration report states: "Historically the company has been subject to various creditor enforcement actions for non-payment of amounts owed and demanded. These actions have previously been settled to the conclusion of the enforcement proceedings."

The administrators are currently working to untangle the complicated network of different companies within the Signature group as well as the relationships with investors, creditors and the companies.

The report states: "At present, it is too early to provide creditors with anticipated dividend prospects. A further update will be provided in the next report to creditors."

The coronavirus lockdown has undoubtedly impacted Signature Living, but its problems were well documented before the pandemic - with Kenwright putting his two most famous hotels - The Shankly and 30 James Street - up for sale in May last year.

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While the company at the time said this sale plan was to 'fund future investments', the administration report suggests it was done to try and provide funds to meet the company's various liabilities, including to the 'bedroom investors' who were owed cash.

a castle on top of a lush green field: Mr Kenwright said the firm was looking to create two hotels and residential units at the site © Signature Living Mr Kenwright said the firm was looking to create two hotels and residential units at the site

But the sales never happened and the joint administrators were appointed in April.

The report reveals that during their investigations into the company, the administrators found that shares in both the parent company and all of the subsidiary companies had been transferred to a new legal entity that had been set up by the director, Lawrence Kenwright to form the new parent company of the wider Signature group.

The report adds: "After discussions with the Director and following legal and tax advice, these transfers were reversed and the Company has resumed its role as the ultimate shareholder of the wider group."

a man standing in front of a car: The confrontation with Elwyn Pierce © UGC The confrontation with Elwyn Pierce

The first of the Signature Living groups to fall into administration was the Shankly Hotel, which collapsed on April 16, just weeks after the nationwide lockdown was announced.

This has been followed by the individual companies covering hotels like 30 James Street in Liverpool, the Coal Exchange in Cardiff and Belfast's George Best Hotel as well as residential developments like 60 Old Hall Street in Liverpool.

These assets are now being handled by a range of different administrators.

In terms of creditors and investors and the money they are owed, the administrators believe their plans will provide a 'better result' that would be likely if the company was wound up.

The report states: "The administration provides protection to the group's hotel and residential assets and a platform from which a realisation strategy can be implemented to maximise the value of the assets that may not have been available if it was wound up.

"Administrators believe a distribution will be made to creditors of the company via the sale of certain freehold and leasehold interests."

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