Hotel firm Signature Living makes allegations against critic

By Dan Box
BBC News

image captionGraham Kenwright worked with his brother on the refurbishment of two Liverpool hotels

A hotel company accused of not paying investors has attacked its founder's brother after he criticised the firm.

A spokesman for Signature Living boss Lawrence Kenwright also wrongly claimed his brother was reported to the police.

Other allegations were contained in material sent to the BBC after Graham Kenwright, who denies the allegations, criticised Signature Living.

The dispute comes amid revelations the Liverpool-based company's investors have not been paid for months.

Signature Living owns six luxury hotels and has 12 projects under construction in Liverpool, Manchester, Cardiff and Belfast. It has claimed to have a turnover "in excess of £80 million".

'Wouldn't have invested'

Graham Kenwright said he and his brother Lawrence had fallen out in the past but reconciled during 2014-15, when he worked for Signature Living on the refurbishment of two of its Liverpool hotels.

"I wouldn't have invested in one of Lawrence's businesses," he said during the interview.

Graham Kenwright also made a number of specific criticisms of the company, which have been explicitly denied.

image captionLiverpool's The Shankly Hotel is one of five the company recently put up for sale

A spokesman for Signature Living said the company was "financially robust and we have a strong track record of returning funds to our investors. Any suggestion otherwise is entirely wrong."

The allegations against Graham Kenwright, marked "Private and Confidential" were sent to the BBC after a spokesman for Signature initially claimed he had been reported to the police for stalking.

Merseyside Police said it had no record of any such alleged offence and the spokesman subsequently said this was "my mistake".

The letter, sent by Signature's lawyers, instead alleged Graham Kenwright harassed his brother's family, although it provided no contemporaneous evidence of this.

It also said he had been reported to the police for alleged fraud.

Merseyside Police subsequently confirmed this report was made during the afternoon on which the letter was sent.

'£261.5m portfolio'

Graham Kenwright has denied the allegations against him and consented to these details of their contents being published.

He said he agreed to be interviewed because he sympathised with those investors who had struggled to receive money owed to them by Signature Living.

Lawrence Kenwright, a former bankrupt who has his own YouTube channel, recently presented a TedX talk on "entrepreneurial socialism" and has said he may run for Liverpool mayor, did not return calls from the BBC.

image copyrightAFP
image captionSignature boss Lawrence Kenwright has previously said he may stand for election as Liverpool mayor

He has previously told the BBC that Signature Living was unable to repay its investors as "any bit of spare money that the company has goes on the building sites".

Signature Living recently sent many of its investors a glossy property portfolio valuing its property assets at £261.5m.

It singled out the group's flagship Shankly Hotel as being worth £36m and "fully operational, sale in progress".

One investor in the hotel subsequently told the BBC he had not received any return on his investment for more than a year, money which was meant for his children.

"That's months of chasing it, anxiety, not being paid… not being able to contact anyone at Signature," said the investor, who asked to remain anonymous.

The brochure also said the £7.5m Arthouse Hotel was "fully operational".

An investor in the Arthouse Hotel subsequently told the BBC they also had not received money owed to them.

"They are not responding to our emails anymore, not knowing when we will receive our money makes us so depressed.

"That money is all my life savings and it's invested for my kids' education," said the investor, who also asked not to be identified.

Another investor said he had been paid money owed to him after personally visiting the company to ask that it do so.

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