This week my continuing collaboration with investors took another step forward.
I’ve been working with 50 of the 52 investors who wished to purchase bedrooms at one of our Belfast developments, the George Best Hotel in the historic Scottish Mutual Building at Donegall Square.
This newly formed GB Hotel group is united in their support to finish and open this hotel.
We’ve faced a unique set of circumstances in trying to finish the hotel and I’m extremely grateful for their support.
The uncertainty of Brexit in 2019 was more than unsettling for all developers.
Funding simply turned from a tidal wave, to a stream.
And then the pandemic struck, ensuring an even greater dilemma and forcing the closure of our venues for the majority of the last 15 months.
This calamity has seen the hotel sector not only lose its business plan because of the lack of tourists.
It’s created a loss of confidence from once supportive funders, who’ve simply left this arena until it stabilises.
Building success out of a challenge
The GB Hotel investors understand that.
They know I’m determined to bring this building out of administration and to ensure all my room owners’ and unsecured investors’ interests are to the fore, rather than being left at the back of the queue as invariably they are in these situations.
I’ve invited the group to become part of the George Best Hotel property company, with the belief that their combined weight will make it easier to gain new funding to complete and open the hotel.
We’re working on the details at the moment, but what we’re putting in place will be unique.
By inviting the George Best hotel investors’ involvement in this way, I’m ceding control and giving them final say in decisions made to ensure they gain best value for themselves.
My main point of contact with the GB Hotel group is Stephen Kearney, who with me is overseeing refinancing and development work.
He’s a highly experienced businessman, and it’s important to have him on board not only for his wise counsel, but also for his willingness to help drive this situation forward.
In a statement to media this week, he said: “It’s certainly not a time to give up. We have seen how Lawrence Kenwright has been reorganising his company since last April, and how well his hotels have been performing when allowed to trade during the pandemic and since the last English lockdown was lifted.
“We have also been struck by Lawrence’s sincerity, his openness and commitment to us. In this type of situation, I’ve only ever seen people run away. Not Lawrence. He has stood his ground and reached out to the investors. He wants to do the right thing by us. One can’t fail to be impressed by his courage and integrity. We all agree that we are better together as a group to stave off a potential write off.”
Such an endorsement means a lot to me and having Steve and his fellow investors on board gives me further hope that we can fight back.
Ready to face the next set of challenges
Of course, we know that we still have a long way to go and that it’s not going to be easy.
Earlier this year another larger group of investors went public with their support of me too.
More than 95% of them have backed me.
They see that’s the best way of protecting the interests of everyone.
We know an exciting future beckons.
Despite the pandemic, we’ve opened two new hotels, The Dixie Dean in Liverpool, and Rainhill Hall in St Helens and our Kingsway House residential development in Liverpool city centre is progressing well.
The business is again trading well and through the robust collaboration between myself and my investors it will continue to do so.
I’m personally looking forward to this ground-breaking collaboration in which investors are no longer placed last while banks and funds take their investment back unencumbered, ensuring that all costs relating to the administration are borne by the unsecured investors, leaving them with very little.
I do believe that by adopting this newly formed template it will not only help tackle similar situations in the future, it will give strength to directors who, although well intentioned, almost always lose their voice in any legal battles that ensue.
Their investors are normally fractured at best, so this will allow them to be properly heard and give them a much better chance of regaining their investment.