Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

An Offal Mess. Top British Artists Lose Thousands in Chef's Hotel Venture

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

An Offal Mess. Top British Artists Lose Thousands in Chef's Hotel Venture

Article excerpt

Byline: Jonathan Prynn Consumer Business Editor

A ROLL-CALL of top British artists including Tracey Emin, Peter Doig and Sarah Lucas have lost tens of thousands of pounds in an ill-fated West End hotel venture.

They were signed up as "ambassador" shareholders of St John Hotel in Leicester Square by chef and restaurateur Fergus Henderson, known as the "king of offal", and his business partner Trevor Gulliver.

But the ambitious new project suffered a "nightmare" series of setbacks including opening a year late, a legal row with its builders, disruptive construction work in Leicester Square and the slump in tourism trade during the Olympics.

The company that owned the 15-room hotel, St John Chinatown Ltd, fell into administration in October only weeks after its restaurant earned a first Michelin star. The business has now been sold to a Singaporean tycoon and the hotel and restaurant are both open.

Full details of the saga emerged for the first time in a report to creditors drawn up by administrators Tim Dolder and Trevor Binyon, of corporate restructuring firm RSM Tenon.

The document, seen by the Evening Standard, shows that shareholders -- many of them "well known" friends of the founders -- stumped up a total of [pounds sterling]2.25 million to back the development, on what was the site of fish restaurant Manzi's.

Henderson, founder of St John restaurant in Smithfield, is famed for his "nose to tail" style of cooking.

When the hotel opened he described it as "cheeky in a nice way", with a bar that would serve all night and a kitchen "like an 18th century man o' war", adding: "The spirit of the place is 'Yes'."

But the administrators' report reveals that the owners had already suffered a disastrous catalogue of setbacks since first drawing up their plans in 2007.

They hired staff and took guest bookings for Christmas 2010 after the builders said the hotel would be ready in time.

In fact it was not fit to open until April 2011, and even then, further "snagging" problems meant that only half of the rooms could be used.

As a result the hotel lost [pounds sterling]1. …

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