Belfast Telegraph

George Best hotelier selling five properties to pay back investors

The George Best hotel in Belfast city centre
The George Best hotel in Belfast city centre
The statement comes as the company was marred by more accusations of financial woes as investors in its Cardiff-based hotel reported a halt in repayments (stock photo)
Emma Deighan

By Emma Deighan

Signature Living, the firm behind Belfast's George Best Hotel, says it will sell five of its properties to pay back investors.

The statement comes as the company was marred by more accusations of financial woes as investors in its Cardiff-based hotel reported a halt in repayments. And one of its directors, the wife of the company's founder, also resigned on December 12.

The company, headed by Lawrence Kenwright, has allegedly failed to make payments to around 16 Taiwanese investors of its Cardiff Coal Exchange Hotel property, which opened in 2017.

The owner of the investment scheme in Taiwan told Wales Online that the company "kept making excuses," describing the experience as a "tedious process".

In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph Signature Living said it would sell its 30 James Street, The Shankly Hotel, The Waring and Liverpool Road as well as parts of Cavern Walks in a bid to pay back its investors. It had already placed The Waring in Belfast on the market.

"Signature Living's investors have their stakes tied-up in various apartment blocks and hotels, all of which have significantly increased in value, based on projected valuations from some of the UK's top valuers," it said.

"However, due to the uncertainty of Brexit, it is taking longer to secure finance across the property development sector, which is why Signature Living has opted to sell a number of sites in order to return money to investors."

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It added that it expected to generate £58m in potential sales, of which £40m will be allocated to repay investors.

"We also have a number of sites to place on the market once the above are sold.

"Signature Living regrets any inconvenience investors may have experienced through delays to their repayment. We have reassured them that their money remains secure and at no point has their investment been at risk."

The statement also follows reports that investors in the George Best Hotel in Belfast were also struggling to get money back after prolonged delays in the opening of the venue.

However, the firm says finance at the business is not in question adding that its underlying equity is "far in excess of its existing loan agreements" with a combined increase in valuations across its portfolio of £100m.

Katie Kenwright resigned from the company and its associated businesses on December 12.

A spokesman said: "Her resignation from the board has been planned for a long time. Signature Living is currently selling two of its largest hotels and now is a good time for Katie to step back.

"As a young mum with four-year-old twins, Katie wants to step back from helping to run the business and leave that to Lawrence. Signature Living has a senior board level management team in place and the business continues to grow strongly."

Belfast Telegraph

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