How many businesses should fail under one person’s management before that person is disbarred from running another one? We were asked this by a local resident last week. They had spotted that as one of Michael Stainer’s businesses was being liquidated by the HMRC, another business with the same directors, same trading address, was being set up. Exit the Grand Folkestone Partnership Ltd. Enter Seaside Hosts Ltd – a true family affair.
Now don’t get us wrong. A business failure can be attributed to all sort of factors beyond one’s control. But when a repetitive drum-beat of failure, failure, failure, dating back to the early 1990s, relentlessly echoes across the Leas, and in each case, the same team are in charge, one has to ask a simple question. When is enough enough?
How many Court cases must decide against you before you throw in the towel. Just last week, yet again, the First Tier Property Tribunal (FTT) found against a Stainer managed-company, Hallam Estates, who own the freehold of the Grand. The FTT upheld its prior decision to include a penal order in the new management arrangements at the Grand against Hallam Estates. This was intended to ensure Hallam’s “good behaviour” as freeholder on pain of sanctions. This was justified by the prior well-documented history of obstruction and harassment. It remains to be seen if this “good behaviour” suddenly extends to supporting the new manager in collecting some £276,000 in service charge arrears, from, guess who, the Stainers as serial flat owners within the Grand. Put simply, if Hallam fails to cooperate with the new manager or in any way is obstructive, it is contempt of court. Hallam is seeking to appeal this order, pleading good behaviour………………… do leopards change their spots?
So, is it time to call “last orders” on chartered accountant Michael Stainer, his wife Doris (pictured together left) and their loyal henchman, Robert Richardson FIH – mustn’t forget the FIH! (pictured right)
Since 2010, when Richardson became general manager at the Grand, three companies have gone into liquidation: the Grand Folkestone Ltd, the Grand Folkestone Partnership Ltd and Kentish Estates Ltd. The Stainers were directors of all three and face personal bankruptcy petitions. It looks likely that several more companies will follow and as the HMRC-appointed Insolvency Practitioner, Adrian Dante of MacIntyre Hudson said to the local press when speaking of Mr and Mrs Stainer’s business “empire”:
“Given the numerous companies involved, it is a complex set up, which I’m trying to unravel.”
And unravelling it has been for quite some time, as these images taken from the London Gazette confirm, which date back as far as 1991, suggest:
This is not a pretty picture for any business person, let alone one who is also, for the time being, a chartered accountant. Factor in that in in 1995 Michel Stainer entered into an Individual Voluntary Arrangement to avoid bankruptcy and had the Grand repossessed to pay his personal debts, and one has to ask, “Is this man a business man?”
Maybe, in recognition of his deficiencies, in 2010, he hired Robert Richardson (pictured) as his general manager, who in his own words is responsible for the profit and loss of all of the commercial enterprises in the Grand. In recognition of that role, in 2013 he made Richardson a director in two of his companies, Keppels Cuisine Limited and Grand-UK Limited , positions he resigned at the end of July 2015, shortly after the Stainers and he were arrested by HMRC officers. However, Richardson remains at the heart of all of the commercial activities at the Grand and never misses an opportunity to celebrate his “successes” – although he is remarkably quiet about the chaos around him. In his words:
“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 one of the chief attributes of any successful business person is the ability to maintain a close grip on reality. Michael Stainer and Robert Richardson have most certainly lost theirs. The former refuses to accept the January First Tier Property Tribunal decision that found him liable for £167.000 in service charge arrears on the Stainers’ 19 holiday flats, a debt that with interest exceeds £270,000.
This refusal is made even more ludicrous because he forgot to appeal, or at least omitted to appeal! The Stainers also owe some £10,000 in business rates on their flats that are charged separately from the Grand itself. Richardson parades around town, securing interviews with the BBC, articles in the council sponsored Folkestone Works website, talking up at life at the Grand as if all were hunky-dory. He spends days away at networking events in an exercise in self-promotion that one can only admire, leaving the world with the impression that business at the Grand is truly grand. Mind you, he can’t have read the last visitor review of the restaurant that began:
“Went for Sunday roast today the food tasted worse than a greasy kebab the morning after a night out …..”
The commercial reality of business at the Grand has been revealed in three successive Tribunal decisions. Failed businesses surviving by indirect subsidies from residents who maintain the building in which these businesses trade: companies without any leases or legal obligation to pay a penny piece in rental income. No wonder the freeholder, Hallam Estates, has scampered off to appeal the recent decision that would have forced it to pay 25% of the service charge bill rather than 2.97%. Hallam is currently obligated to pay. This would have to be collected this from the failed and failing business operating under Richardson’s management – some £50,000 annum.
Time to let the insolvency practitioners liquidate all the companies at the Grand, realise the assets and see a real commercial operation take over – just like at the View, Clifton and Burlington – three once faded operations now bursting at the seams with happy customers after major refurbishments.
The Shepwayvox Team – Dissent is NOT a Crime