Ramsay in court battle over pub

Published: Thursday 20th November 2014 by The News Editor

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The dispute between celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and his wife Tana’s father is at the centre of a new High Court battle.

Ramsay is claiming that an automatic signature machine was used by his father-in-law to sign him up – without his knowledge – as personal guarantor for the £640,000-a-year annual rent on a pub.

He is asking a judge for a declaration that the personal guarantee for the York & Albany near Regent’s Park in London does not legally bind him.

Jonathan Seitler QC, appearing for Ramsay, told the court: “His signature was not lawfully authorised.”

Written submissions to the court on behalf of Ramsay describe how for a number of years he worked with his father-in-law, Christopher Hutcheson, who acted as his business manager in his group of companies.

Chancery judge Mr Justice Morgan was told that Ramsay’s “deep and extensive trust in Hutcheson was entirely misplaced”.

The Ramsay document alleged: “Christopher Hutcheson defrauded (Ramsay) and the group of hundreds of thousands of pounds.”

In October 2010, Mr Hutcheson was “summarily dismissed from the group”.

As Ramsay was “piecing his business back together”, his solicitors discovered that his signature had appeared on a personal guarantee in the lease for the York & Albany.

Chancer judge Mr Justice Morgan was told that Ramsay “had never agreed to the personal guarantee and was completely unaware of it”.

The judge was told a key issue in the case was whether Mr Hutcheson was authorised, while managing the Ramsay group businesses, to use a “ghost writer” machine which he had obtained and which was used to sign Ramsay’s name on the personal guarantee.

Film director Gary Love, who owns the York & Albany, has described Ramsay’s allegation as an “absurd” attempt to wriggle out of his rental commitments.

Mr Love is represented in court and opposing Ramsay’s application for a declaration that he is not bound by the guarantee.

The celebrity chef’s company signed a 25-year lease for the historic York & Albany in 2007.

Gordon Ramsay Holdings (GRH) won a bidding war to secure the 160-year-old building in the exclusive area of Regent’s Park, north London.

The Independent reported that this pushed the rent far higher than the market rate, and Ramsay has since turned the pub into an upmarket restaurant, bar and hotel.

Ramsay is submitting to the court during a six-day hearing at which he will give evidence that he had agreed to the use of the ghost writer, which electronically replicates a signature using a fountain pen or ballpoint.

But he had done so “for purposes of merchandising material only”.

However, Mr Hutcheson had “used the Ghost Writer far more widely than that, using it to sign various contracts in (Ramsay’s) name”.

Ramsay maintains Mr Hutcheson also used it to sign the York and Albany personal guarantee or loan, even though the chef had not authorised anyone to sign it on his behalf.

Giving evidence to the court, Mr Ramsay said that between six and nine months after Mr Hutcheson was “removed from the business” in 2010, “it was discovered then that the lease was signed by the ghost machine”.

He said it was discovered that “there were several documents that had been forged”.

Cross-examined by Romie Tager QC, for Mr Love, the chef said he could not remember exactly which documents.

He said he and his wife were then “going through a very difficult time”, telling the court that “there were several emails that were hacked so it is hard to categorise exactly when and what we discovered”.

He said his father-in-law “never had permission” to sign any deal “via a ghost machine”.

Published: Thursday 20th November 2014 by The News Editor

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