Troubled Xmas experience firm folds
Magical Journeys, the company behind the fantasy Christmas experience designed by Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen which shut down just a day after it opened, has gone into liquidation.
Craig Povey, who has been appointed joint liquidator with Kevin Murphy, said creditors are owed in the region of £875,000 following the early closure in December.
The attraction at the Belfry Hotel in Sutton Coldfield had run into trouble before when it was forced to close one day after opening in November, following negative feedback from visitors on social media.
It reopened several days later after work to improve it, winning positive customer reviews, but organisers claimed they had been "left in the lurch" and could not find a replacement backer.
Mr Povey said: "The directors of Magical Journeys Limited faced a number of significant challenges and attribute the failure to a combination of poor weather hampering site preparation, the temporary closure of the attraction, leading to negative publicity which had an impact on ticket sales, and higher-than-anticipated costs.
"When anticipated investment failed to materialise, they had no option but to close the attraction early.
"Following our appointment as liquidators, we are in the process of reviewing creditors' claims and investigating if there are any assets which can be realised for the benefit of creditors.
"We'll be reporting back to creditors with the results of our investigations into the company's affairs in due course."
Magical Journey was billed as the ultimate Christmas experience for children in the run-up to Christmas but it was blighted by fierce criticism and disappointment from the day it opened.
Dissatisfied customers branded the top price of £22.50 for a children's ticket a "rip-off".
Some reported seeing elves smoking and criticised the poor quality of gifts handed to youngsters.
Event director Paul Dolan had claimed that bad weather hampered first-day preparations and it had not been ready to open.
Llewelyn-Bowen, a flamboyant TV favourite after appearing on make-over shows such as Changing Rooms, brought some celebrity sparkle to the venture, but was not involved in its day-to-day running and did provide any financial support.
He said previously: "On a personal level I was so excited by the idea of designing Christmas. It seemed a perfect opportunity. I really did feel Paul Dolan and his team were the right people to do it.
"In hindsight they absolutely were not experienced enough for this sort of event.
"I was just commissioned to create some design concepts for the experience."
A statement on the attraction's website notes it has ceased trading and has not been in operation since December 16.
Amid repeated apologies it states: "We have explored all our options, and the situation leaves us with no alternative other than close the Magical Journey."
It added: "We are truly sorry. After all we've been through, having to shut down in the final week is devastating.
"Although we had quite the time of it in the press and on social media, feedback was great with over 600 four-and five-star reviews.
"However, today a key financial backer has dropped out, leaving us in the lurch. We have tried desperately over the last few hours to find a replacement but to no avail."
The liquidation is being handled by Birmingham-based accountancy firm Chantrey Vellacott.