North East Wales

Stephanie Booth: Calling in administrators 'traumatic'

Stephanie Booth
Image caption Hotelier Stephanie Booth: "We have learnt a very painful lesson".

Stephanie Booth's hotel chain was forced into administration over a £900,000 VAT bill, it has emerged.

KPMG were called in last week at the businesses comprising seven hotels in Wrexham, Denbighshire and Chester.

Ms Booth says the problem started when Barclays Bank removed a separate £1m loan offer, something they deny.

But she says the issue became "terminal" when the chain failed to get extra time to pay a £900,000 bill to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.

HMRC said it cannot comment on individual cases.

Ms Booth says she and other directors of Llangollen Hotels and parent company, Global Investments Group, have acted responsibly, paying all small suppliers and staff.

In a joint statement with husband, David, she said: "The largest debts are HMRC, myself as I borrowed money from my personal bank to keep the company going, then energy companies and a few large national companies.

"We are confident, therefore, that our problems will not result in the closure of any traders who have dealt with us."

Administrators are looking to sell four freehold hotels at Bodidris Hall in Llandegla, Wrexham; and The Wild Pheasant, The Chainbridge and The Bryn Howel, in Llangollen, Denbighshire.

It was initially thought the remaining three hotels which are leased would have to close.

'Expand'

But KPMG confirmed on Monday that only The Wynnstay Arms Hotel, Wrexham, has shut.

The other leased hotels remaining open are The Anchor Hotel in Ruthin, Denbighshire, and The Chester Bridge Hotel, Chester.

Global Investments Group operates three children's soft play centres, Fantastic Fun Houses, in Mold, Flintshire; Wrexham; and Oswestry, Shropshire; as well as McLarens, a wine bar in Oswestry.

The Mold and Wrexham play centres have closed.

Ms Booth says she is continuing to run the Anchor and Chester Bridge hotels, the Oswestry play centre and McLarens wine bar.

A KPMG spokesperson said they were not aware of who was running the properties as they passed to the landlords when the firms went into administration.

Ms Booth's statement said that last September her business continued its "aggressive programme to expand" leisure interests.

Image caption The Wynnstay Arms is a local landmark in Wrexham

She claims the company received a proposal from Barclays Bank for additional £1m funding if they switched banking to them, giving them security of Bodidris Hall.

She said by June the transfer was going through, but Barclays "would not provide the loan after all".

"We had by this stage spent the £1m on our new developments in Oswestry and Chester, but now faced a payment of £900,000 to HMRC on the 7th July that we knew we could not make so we requested time to pay the VAT.

"After we received a negative reply from HMRC we knew we would default on this debt and so we, as responsible directors, called in KPMG as administrators."

A Barclays spokesperson said it disputed Ms Booth's version of events.

'Financial options'

"The bank has worked for almost a year with Global Investments Group to try and resolve the company's many problems, including poor trading, cash flow issues, overextension on capital expenditure and significant pressure from other creditors.

"This was against a backdrop of another of the company's banks looking to exit their relationship with the business as quickly as possible.

"A range of financial options were discussed during this time, but unfortunately no long term proposals proved viable. With HMRC issuing a winding up position administration became inevitable."

HMRC said it could not comment on individual cases, adding: "HMRC's aim is not to wind up companies or make individuals bankrupt, but to collect, as efficiently as we can, the debts that are due."

In 2009, Ms Booth appeared in BBC Wales fly-on-the-wall documentary series Hotel Stephanie showing her handling the day-to-day problems of managing six hotels in north east Wales during the recession.

In recent months she has been linked with a takeover of Wrexham football club, before withdrawing from the process in May.

She took over the Wynnstay Arms, a well-known Wrexham landmark, in April 2010.

Ms Booth's statement said: "We have learnt a very painful lesson and lost a sizeable chunk of our personal wealth, but we will be back and throughout this traumatic period we have found out who are true friends and we are grateful for the many messages of support we have received.

"We have done nothing wrong and have mitigated the impact on everyone by pumping our own money in to the company in the knowledge we would lose it, so we will not go into hiding and will continue with our heads held high."

The affected companies employ 177 people. The statement said all staff were paid in full on 1 July.

The statement concludes: "David and I will obviously be more closely involved in the running of The Anchor Hotel, Chester Bridge Hotel, McLarens and the Fantastic Fun House in Oswestry as well as our mail order, retail, medical and telecoms companies so we hope to meet and greet all our loyal customers in person very soon.

"Meanwhile, my son will continue to run the four other hotels on behalf of KPMG who are the acting administrators."

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