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Majority of investors of would-be George Best Hotel ‘united’ in support of potential Belfast city centre building recovery


The failed George Best Hotel building in Bedford Street, Belfast city centre.

The failed George Best Hotel building in Bedford Street, Belfast city centre.

The failed George Best Hotel building in Bedford Street, Belfast city centre.

The majority of individual investors of a Belfast city centre building which was to become the George Best Hotel have said they are “united” behind the developer’s efforts to complete and open the site.

Last month a High Court judge granted an order for sale of the building to administrators appointed to the failed city centre project.

The ruling by Madam Justice McBride means that investors in bedrooms in the would-be hotel are set to lose up to £4m.

Meanwhile, police were forced to place a cordon around the listed building on the corner of Donegall Square South and Bedford Street after pieces of masonry fell off the building and onto the footpath below.

Renovation work to turn the historic Scottish Mutual Building into a multi-occupancy room hotel was ceased in April 2020 when the hotel’s owners, Bedford Hotel Ltd, a subsidiary of Signature Living Hotels Ltd, was placed in administration.

Following the High Court ruling, more than 50 of the 57 bedroom investors - led by Co Antrim businessman Stephen Kearney - have come together to support Lawrence Kenwright in a proposed recovery plan which “will seek to return their investment with interest”.

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In a statement on Friday, Mr Kearney, who invested in the hotel in 2018, said after having time to reflect on the ruling, the investors still believe it is “not a time to give up” when there is still a possibility of recovering their investment.

“We are under no illusion that it will be difficult, but we are united in our determination to ensure the administrator does not deny our group, some of whom are retired, the chance of recovering our money,” he continued.

“In that, we are trusting in the knowhow and expertise of Mr Kenwright in completing and opening the hotel.

“When this situation arose he reached out to us in an attempt to do the right thing rather than walking away.

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

Mr Kenwright added that both he and the hotel’s investors are an “attractive proposition for funders” looking to invest in hospitality following the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Now that a judge has deemed all individual leases are to be collapsed, it has cleared the way for the administrators to sell the site as is, and this has allowed all bedroom investors to join with me to form a new property company,” he stated.

“This company will be chaired by Stephen Kearney who, if we are successful in purchasing this building, will have end say in what decisions are to be made, such as whether we refinance or sell the asset, once completed.

“These decisions can only be made after 18 months of trading which will give the hotel enough time to trade for 12 months and a further six months to create first year accounts. In so doing we will be able to gain best value for the hotel.”

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