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Investors on board in new bid to finish George Best Hotel


Lawrence Kenright outside the proposed George Best Hotel in Donegall Square

Lawrence Kenright outside the proposed George Best Hotel in Donegall Square

Lawrence Kenright outside the proposed George Best Hotel in Donegall Square

A move led by local businessmen to resurrect plans to finish and open the stalled George Best Hotel project in Belfast city centre has been announced.

Work on the hotel in the historic Scottish Mutual Building at Donegall Square stopped in April 2020 when the owners, Bedford Hotel Ltd, a subsidiary of Signature Living Hotels Ltd, went bust with investors owed millions.

However, a 50-strong group of investors has emerged and are now collaborating with Signature Living’s owner, Lawrence Kenwright, to save the development and their investments.

He has invited the group to become part of the George Best Hotel property company, in the belief that their combined weight will make it easier to gain new funding to complete the hotel.

The group, chaired by Co Antrim businessman Stephen Kearney, will now oversee refinancing and development, with Mr Kenwright acting as CEO.

Mr Kearney, who invested in the hotel in 2018, said: “It’s been a turbulent journey for us and for Signature Living, but there is hope now that all can be resolved with the George Best Hotel administration. It’s certainly not a time to give up.”

He added: “We all agree that we are better together as a group to stave off a potential write off.”

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The GB Hotel group has also been advised by another Northern Irish businessman, Thomas Scullion, himself a Signature Living investor. He chairs the UK Accommodation Group (UKAG), which he and fellow investors set up to restructure Signature Living’s operations last September .

Mr Kearney said UKAG had “mobilised the vast majority of unsecured investors in supporting Lawrence Kenwright and have worked diligently on a recovery plan”, adding that “crucially Lawrence has handed over control” of operations.

Mr Kenwright agreed he was “ceding control [to the investors] and giving them final say in decisions”, adding: “We have faced a unique set of circumstances in trying to finish the George Best Hotel and I am extremely grateful for this support.”

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