Ramsay’s Pub Nightmare
23 January 2015 by James Bird
Gordon Ramsay, one of the most famous chefs in the world, has now found a new source of fame in the legal world. After having his signature put on a lease for a London pub by a ghost writing machine, the High Court has ruled that this is valid and Ramsay is bound to his obligations under the lease as personal guarantor.
Back in 2008, James Hutcheson (Gordon Ramsay’s estranged father) had taken a 25 year lease for the York & Albany pub in the Regent’s Park area of north London. When signing, he had put Gordon Ramsay as a personal guarantor for the tenant’s obligations to the lease and had signed this using a ghost writing machine to “forge” the celebrity’s signature. Ramsay had argued that the use of this machine was fraudulent and unauthorised so the agreement was not binding.
The owner of the freehold title to the pub and landlord of the lease is film director Gary Love. Charging an annual rent of £640,000 under the agreement, he argued that it was absurd for the guarantee to be declared void and it was merely an attempt to escape from the additional liabilities imposed.
James Hutcheson was, at the time of signing the lease, CEO of Gordon’s company. As part of the company at the time, a ghost writing machine was used for signing cookbooks and merchandise, or at least that is what Ramsay claims to believe…… As it turns out, it was also frequently used for the signing of legal documents and it would appear that this lease was no exception.
Justice Morgan (judge for the trial) had dismissed most of the evidence which Ramsay had put forward. He stated that Mr Hutcheson, dismissed in October 2010 for gross misconduct, had been acting at the time “within the wide general authority conferred on him” by the celebrity chef. It was discovered that the machine had been used to sign 42 different legal documents and there did not appear to be any attempt to hide its use. In addition to this, the chef actually told the court that had he been asked, he would have given the personal guarantee anyway if the business could not do this.
Whilst it would appear at first that Ramsay’s signature had been fraudulently used, it has been held that this was merely a transaction which he regretted. James Hutcheson had been acting under a general authority given to him by the chef which allowed him to bind Ramsay contractually in a range of business deals whilst he focused on other aspects of his business. This was no exception and as a result Ramsay now has to comply with his obligations as guarantor.
His “Kitchen Nightmares” and “Hotel Hell” TV programmes may always follow a similar pattern of happy-ish endings but on this occasion his “Pub Hell” ordeal will leave him facing a legal bill of over £1 million with no permission granted for appeal….. Sometimes it just doesn’t turn out like it does on TV.