The Long Read: End of a Grand era?


It’s a funny old world.  We’ve been receiving very authoritative emails suggesting it’s Auf Wiedersehen Pet for Robert Richardson, General Manager of The Grand (pictured), who was arrested by HMRC and bailed as was his boss Michael Stainer & his wife in July 2015.  These emails are very complimentary to him, and thus all the more convincing for this. They are also sent under the name of a well-respected local figure who we have spoken to, and he knows nothing about this.  

 So why are we receiving fake emails suggesting Richardson’s tenure as Michael Stainer’s right hand man at the Grand is allegedly coming to an end? The mystery is compounded by the fact that Richardson has posted on LinkedIn about a new senior manager being appointed at the Grand. So what game is being played here?  Whatever it is, we won’t play, but we are prepared to accept the invitation to look back on Richardson’s track record as a general manager and occasional director of businesses for which he publicly takes responsibility.

Why this campaign of misinformation has started is a mystery. Instead, we will stick robustly to what is in the public domain.  We want to be especially careful as Richardson recently took to LinkedIn to complain about what he considers to be “fake media.”  Given that the media he was referring to is the London Gazette, “one of the official journals of record of the British government in which certain statutory notices are required to be published,” this complaint borders on farcical.  Just for the record, all bankruptcies, insolvencies, liquidations have to be published in the London Gazette as part of the judicial process for insolvency.

Firstly, let’s look at how Richardson (pictured below) describes himself in his LinkedIn profile:

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Commercially focused General Manager within the UK hotel and leisure industry with a body of work demonstrating strong leadership, keen financial planning and strategic direction to drive overall stakeholder satisfaction, operating standards and conversion to bottom line. Consistently successful in establishing professional award-winning teams, driving Customer Satisfaction and Profitability.  As General Manager of The Grand I have a strong focus on delivering long-term results and adding value to the organisation, leading all aspects of the business.”

Now let’s read Richardson’s complaint about ‘fake media” published via  LinkedIn in late Feb 2018:

  • I hate to use the phrase ‘fake media’ but I’ve honestly found it strange over the last year that having developed a sustainable business strategy to support the local community (at the financial expense of the business and personal expense of my own time) disenfranchised anonymous bloggers can, through innuendo, vilify an award winning business without having to name themselves or put forward evidence.”

One can understand therefore, why he was so peeved when Shepwayvox saw, and then published, formal notices about the winding-up orders of the companies he ran, even if he remains unsure as to which company at The Grand employs him.  Once upon a time, local newspapers would have published such notices to allow local businesses who might be creditors to file their claims. 

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So, let’s look at Mr. Richardson’s trading history as a director, and let’s remind him of the statutory obligations of a director.  Amongst these is an obligation under Statute, s172 of the Companies Act 2006 –  to have regard to, amongst other matters:

the impact of the company’s operations on the community and the environment;

the desirability of the company maintaining a reputation for high standard business conduct

An obligation to ensure all taxes are paid in a time fashion goes without saying, but more of that later. He was a director of two of the companies being wound up, Keppels Cuisine Limited and Grand-UK Ltd and resigned these posts on July 29th 2015, two weeks after the famous dawn raid in which he was arrested by HMRC, along with Mr. and Mrs. Stainer, because of issues in regard to the payment of taxes.

We would strongly urge anyone who still doubts the accuracy of our reporting to read the judgements in the two tax cases, and see how these inexorably lead to the winding up of the Grand Folkestone Ltd, and winding up orders against four other companies. Admittedly not on Mr. Richardson’s watch, we have also found two other tax-related liquidations of Mr. Stainer’s companies, the Grand Hotel Ltd in 1991 and Kentish Apartments Ltd in 2003.  For a chartered accountant, this is a pretty sorry history, and one on which we would assume his professional body would have a view.

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But back to Richardson and the sets of company accounts he signed off as director. The first company – Keppels Cuisine Limited – whose accounts he signed off on 30 Dec 2013 had a debt at that time of £28,139. He had been a director since August 22nd 2013.  He signed off the following year as well (2014). Days after the tax raid by HMRC in July 2015, he had resigned.  This company is being now wound up as The Gazette makes clear, courtesy of HMRC.  By March 2017, the debt was £62,122 excluding HMRC liabilities. Is that sound Financial planning? Just asking.

The second company of which he was a director, the Grand UK Ltd had debts of £53,316 when he signed the accounts on the 30th December 2014. He also signed off the following year as well. By July 2015, he had again resigned. Its debt in March 2017 was £85,627, again excluding HMRC liabilities. That’s quite a bottom line indeed.

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These are facts, courtesy of Companies House — no fakery here either. And despite his resignations, it might appear to some that he was a ‘shadow director’ within the meaning of section 251 of the 2006 Companies Act:

In the Companies Acts “shadow director”, in relation to a company, means a person in accordance with whose directions or instructions the directors of the company are accustomed to act”.

How can Mr Richardson claim that during his time as director of both companies,  he promoted and achieved the success of these companies when both continued to run at a substantial loss, and are now facing liquidation?

Mr Richardson has in the past been very quick with threats of legal action against the Shepwayvox team, alleging defamation. However, when confronted with the evidence and who would be called as witnesses, Mr. Richardson quietly goes away.  Instead he reverts to tweeting to anyone who would listen to him about fake news, anonymous articles and so on, ad nauseam.  Simultaneously, a cluster of fake email addresses appeared, posting on Shepwayvox and Twitter under names such as David Olliver, @shepwayvix. @theshepwayvox, or writing letters of complaint under the name, William Lang.  There’s even been a Twitter account called @FabulousGrand, “The Twitter site of Residents in the Grand”. We have incontrovertible evidence as to the source of these faked IDs.

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Our public face (pictured centre), and the rest of the team at Shepwayvox have been and continue to be educated in the art of investigative reporting from some of the best journalists and trainers in the business, including Bastian Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier, (pictured) who gave the world the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers.

We are not in the business of fake media, regardless of Mr Richardson’s protestations. HMRC do not knock on your door and arrest you without reason. Company accounts do not lie. The London Gazette is a journal of reputable record and has been for more than 350 years. The news that Mr Richardson objects, has its source in his own actions.  If someone thinks that a story about Richardson moving on from the Grand will save him, he really ought to think again.

The Shepwayvox Team

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4 Comments on The Long Read: End of a Grand era?

  1. You are assuming the emails are fake when all you really know is that the person under whose name they were sent isn’t the person you thought it might be. Unless the name was so distinctive, it could just be a huge coincidence and he or she is real. After all, this is the Grand where everything is uncertain except for death and taxes —— OK, one out of two ain’t bad!!

  2. Mama Mia // March 9, 2018 at 14:57 // Reply

    Isn’t Mr Richardson preparing a ” GRAND EXIT ” to Coventry ?

  3. Is “Reality Detachment” a communicable disease or just part of the job?

  4. Will he be giving evidence in the next Tribunal hearing between his current boss and the the Grand residents? He was brilliant last time……..

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