So who does the buck stop with now, especially after the latest High Court humiliation on July 15th?
This follows on from February 21st this when Hallam Estates, as owners of the freehold of the Grand, lost yet another High Court battle when seeking to set aside two Statutory Demands for debt. Were these to proceed, Hallam would be liquidated. Hallam lost then and they have lost again.
So back to the question: who’s in charge? Version one puts Robert Moss in charge, as he likes to tell everyone, and clearly he is well-qualified. To quote Richardson’s own words:
“…Robert Moss…has extensive experience of the hospitality, bar and restaurant trade,”
….and as Mr Moss said to Kentonline when taking over in November 2018:
“I’m doing alright, I’m not going to give up, I want to see what I can do and keep the place running.”
So that’s OK then, or is it? We have heard lots of reports as to Mr Moss management style, and the Property Tribunal had its own hard-hitting criticism of his performance when giving evidence as a director in May this year.
Choosing to live over the office, he recently moved into the Grand, occupying one of the holiday lets. One would assume that this proximity would assist him in the detailed hands-on management the Grand needs, as he stepped into Richardson’s size 10s. In fact, most days he is to be found sitting in his dark blue BMW coupe, parked facing the English Channel and gaping out to sea.
Nonetheless, despite this curious office location, he fires off endless emails in his capacity as the sole director of the Grand’s owner. These are invariably, we are told, carefully written (see below) and show a huge depth of knowledge about the Grand’s long and litigious past. However, when it comes to his courtroom performance, knowledge is the one thing he doesn’t appear to possess.
He has made two appearances before the Property Tribunal, in June 2019 and in May 2020. In the first, he represented Hallam Estates as it sought to defend an action for costs brought by the Association of Residents in the Grand. To his dismay, his assumption that Michael Stainer would do the talking was shot down in flames when the Tribunal said that Stainer was restricted to assisting Mr Moss in presenting the case. Part of the defence to this claim was based on disputing the validity and veracity of the costs claimed. However, much to Stainer’s dismay:
“Mr Moss conceded that he was not disputing the validity of the receipts produced…. to substantiate the costs schedule or suggesting they were fraudulent”.
Hallam lost and costs of over £9000 were awarded.
Notwithstanding this admission, Stainer has persisted to this day to allege the falsification of documents presented to the Tribunal.
It was therefore no surprise when in February 2020 when seeking in the High Court to prevent the presentation of a petition for the winding up against Hallam Estates, Mr Moss was totally silent. He allowed Michael Stainer to present their case, not that the judge was impressed by his advocacy skills as the trial transcript reveals:
“It was symptomatic of the evidence filed by Hallam that bold assertions were made with no substance in the form of any supporting documents being supplied”
“The submissions made by Mr Stainer on behalf of Hallam were littered with confident statements as to his interpretation of the law that he was unable to make good. With all due respect to the enthusiasm with which he made them, they were generally unsupported by the evidence that was filed.”
The most recent debacle was on May 5th before the Property Tribunal when Mr Moss was the star witness in a successful case brought by the Tribunal-appointed manager of the Grand, Alison Mooney. Her intention was to seek permission from the Property Tribunal to bring about an end to the holiday lets. We make no apology for repeating what the Tribunal said about Mr Moss’s evidence, as this provides suggestive evidence as to the real author of his regular emails:
“The main exception to this was Mr Moss, who the Tribunal did not find a particularly satisfactory witness. It was obvious from the face of his written statement that Mr Moss did not prepare the bulk of it himself (despite the statement of truth). Almost half the statement related to events which pre-dated his involvement in The Grand. Despite this, he was reluctant to admit the obvious inference that his statement was a collaborative effort with Mr Stainer – even though Mr Stainer himself volunteered the fact without any prompting at the very start of his own evidence.”
An interesting add-on to this case is contained in a submission by Stainer seeking to reverse this decision:
“Mr Moss ……. has known the business for over 40 years, having then supplied his Mosstronic accounting equipment to The Grand and been a regular participant in Stainer events since that time.”
We have found no trace of any such equipment or company or of Mr Moss having ever been a director of any company.
It was therefore no surprise that in yet another hearing before Tribunal on June 30th-July 1st brought by Hallam Estates to secure the removal of Mrs Mooney, Mr Moss was both absent and silent – not even a witness statement!! The case was dismissed within 35 minutes of the hearing finishing, but not before several revelations emerged in evidence from Mr Stainer.
The first was the statement that he’d provided £60,000 to put his would-be replacement manager in funds. We believe the source of these funds was the “Stainer Family Trust” – a trust whose very existence has been challenged by Mr Stainer’s Trustees in Bankruptcy.
The second was an Insolvency Service document provided in evidence which confirmed his HMRC debt as £1,134,788.95.
This didn’t stop Stainer from claiming he didn’t owe anyone a penny, and in fact that he was owed money!!
So what do we make of all this? This brings us to version 2 of the “who’s in charge” mystery. We would suggest that Mr Moss’s sole purpose was to front for Mr Stainer, firstly during the period of the latter’s disqualification as a director during his period of bankruptcy from November 2018 to November 2019, and then, thereafter. We have had access to a transcript of a conversation in which Stainer was a participant from late November 2018 which show beyond all reasonable doubt that even then, he would remain in charge. This would be an offence under the Insolvency Act.
But why continue this masquerade once his period of disqualification ended? We know there is a High Court hearing in December that could end with Stainer being disqualified from acting as a director or manager of any limited company for up to 15 years. However, he could have easily resumed his directorships in the meantime.
Maybe the answer is that by operating via his puppet, any possible misdemeanours, or worse, being carried out within the Grand would not involve him. We are not saying there are any such activities going on, but…………
Michael Stainer’s financial mismanagement has seen him twice enter insolvency, in 1995 and then again in 2018. A man who’s had eight companies trading at the Grand wound up since 2016 with debts in excess of £1,100,000. A man whose refusal to meet the service charge obligations of the 18 flats that underpinned the commercial operation is leading to the repossession and forced sale of those very flats.
As for staff at the Grand who in their time have left comments on the blog, hers just two:
July 7, 2019 at 08:54
Oh blimey, The Grand. It’s horrible here. Wages which are paid by cheque and bounce frequently. Creditors chasing money on the phone all to regularly. Robert Richardson, the manager, is imho a pathological liar. As for his boss Michael Stainer, a bankrupt, he is in imho insane, so as you might suspect it does not make for a happy workplace. They need locking up and the key throwing away.
February 8, 2019 at 12:46
Mr Stainer is directing the business, as an employee I and many others have witnessed it first hand. Both Moss & Richardson know it is wrong to carry out his orders, but they do it nonetheless. They have no excuse and are as guilty as he. Many of us accept Stainer has freeloaded of the residents for far too long and they are right in bringing the legal cases they have. Nobody likes a parasite and that is what Stainer, Moss & Richardson are.
The Shepwayvox Team
Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful