Various Signature Living companies have gone into administration over the past six weeks – including those behind some of the renowned property firm's biggest hotel projects.
Problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic combined with struggles to finish major projects in Liverpool and across the UK have created something of a perfect storm for Lawrence Kenwright's vast business.
The ECHO believes six companies within the group have now fallen into administration – the latest being Signature Living Coal Exchange Limited – the vehicle behind the hotel at the historic Coal Exchange building in Cardiff.
It may be well known that Mr Kenwright and his group have been forced to call in administrators to other well-known projects such as the Shankly Hotel in Liverpool.
But what is the latest on the numerous other developments, and where else have administrators been called in?
Here, the ECHO runs through where each project in Signature Living's portfolio is up to:
The Liverpool projects
Perhaps Signature's best-known hotel and dedicated to LFC legend Bill Shankly, it was announced in May 2019 that Mr Kenwright was hoping to sell both the Shankly and 30 James Street for a combined figure of £51m – allowing the company to "fuel major expansion plans" around the UK.
Last month, the Shankly became the first company in the group to go into administration.
Administrators from financial firm Duff & Phelps were appointed to Signature Shankly Ltd – the firm holding the leasehold interest of the Victoria Street building, which like the rest of the group, had closed its doors to the public.
Administrators said they expected the hotel to be open again for business when lockdown restrictions were lifted, but that the move came after the Covid-19 pandemic had hit the whole industry “incredibly hard”.
A day after that announcement, administrators spoke out once more to say they would investigate how investor money was spent – in a bid to “understand how funds flow around the group”.
The unusual statement added: “We are aware that a number of the bedroom investors have become concerned in recent months that monies due to them have not been paid despite assurances from the company.”
Duff & Phelps said there would be no “fire sale” of “quality venue” the Shankly.
30 James Street
As above, Grade II-listed 30 James Street is also for sale for offers of £16m or over.
The hotel, themed around the White Star Line shipping company which once occupied the historic building, contains 63 nautical-themed rooms as well as a rooftop terrace bar, restaurant, events space and spa facilities.
Mr Kenwright said back in 2014, he had used the fractional sales model for 30 James Street, selling off hotel rooms in advance to investors.
That was because when he started work, he said he found no other way to fund the conversion of historic buildings into hotels.
60 Old Hall Street
60 Old Hall Street was taken on by Signature Living in January 2016, with the firm hoping to complete by the end of that year.
The building is still unfinished to this day after completion dates were pushed further and further back.
The company behind the development was another to go into administration last month.
This time it was Steve Williams and Philip Armstrong of FRP called in to run the administration, who said they hoped to finish the projects as swiftly as possible.
Days later, the firm’s Signature Fit Club, which was based inside the 60 Old Hall Street development, announced it was to shut for good.
The Bling Bling Building
The “Bling Bling” Building was purchased by Signature Living over two years ago, and in December 2018, welcomed a new tenant – the Lounge 69 bar and restaurant.
The gold Hanover Street landmark was previously home to the famous Herbert of Liverpool hairdressing salon.
Plans to turn the Bling Bling building into a 33-bed hotel, as well as adding in a basement spa and rooftop extension, were approved by Liverpool City Council in June last year.
The planned opening date is unknown.
Formerly a haven for WAGs such as Coleen Rooney and Alex Gerrard, Cavern Walks is located on Mathew Street and Lord Street.
A majority of the 80,000 square foot site is made up of office space, with the exception of retail units and has been empty for over a decade.
In 2018, Signature Living agreed to buy the famous Cavern Walks shopping centre and to transform it into a luxury hotel.
The hotelier confirmed to the ECHO last summer it hoped the development would be in part open by this month, with final completion by August/September.
A Grade II-listed country house best known for hosting lavish weddings, Rainhill Hall, formerly a retreat for the Society of Jesuits, is based in St Helens.
The Signature Living-led refurb of the site, also known as Loyola Hall, was completed in April last year.
At the time, it was announced that a partial launch of the venue would take place in August 2019, ahead of log cabins being completed by the end of last year.
A full opening was expected to take place in February. The venue is currently taking enquiries.
Top news stories
Dixie Dean Hotel, Signature Living Bold Street, Signature Living Hotel and the Arthouse Hotel
The above developments were all launched at various stages of the past few years, and were all fully operational and open before the Covid-19 lockdown.
On March 25, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the company took the decision to postpone all arrivals until further notice.
A message on the firm's website says that guests with bookings should have received confirmation emails. Signature Living is offering guests to move bookings to a future date, or credit notes for the full amount.
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The UK-wide projects
Coal Exchange, Cardiff
Signature Living Coal Exchange Limited – the company behind the hotel at Cardiff's historic Coal Exchange building – went into the hands of administrators from financial firm Wilson Field Ltd on May 12 – the latest to be announced.
The Coal Exchange news came just four months after Cardiff Council offered Signature Living a £2 million loan to help them finish the delayed development, álthough this money was never paid to the company.
While the Coal Exchange hotel had partially opened, with around 90 rooms, Signature had been planning further renovations to open up the building fully.
The company that operates the Exchange Hotel in the building is still operating.
George Best Hotel, Belfast
Administrators were called to Bedford Hotel Limited – trading as the George Best Hotel in Belfast city centre, on April 24.
Financial advisors from Duff & Phelps have also been called in for the £15m Belfast city centre hotel.
The hotel is due to be launched "later this year" – and administrators say advance bookings and reservations remain "unaffected".
Shankly Hotel, Preston
Another hotel named after the football legend and referencing his time at Preston North End, the Shankly Hotel is set to be housed inside the town's listed former Post Office building.
Works began in 2017, and the project is behind schedule having been due to open in spring 2018.
There are hopes however, with administrators of other projects saying the rest of the group remains unaffected, that the Preston project will still come off.
Shortly after several Signature Living firms went into administration last month, Preston Business Improvement District's manager Mark Whittle told the Lancashire Post : “We do hope that, despite companies in the Signature Living family having encountered difficulties, the Preston hotel can still become a reality.
“The city’s accommodation offer has improved in recent years, but the Shankly Preston would be a key asset that we’d like to see realised”.
Victoria Mill, Manchester
Administrators FRP were called to the special-purpose vehicle (SPV) behind Victoria Mill in Manchester on the same day as the 60 Old Hall Street development.
Like the Liverpool scheme, FRP's Steve Williams and Philip Armstrong said they hope to finish the project "as swiftly as possible".
The part of Victoria Mill owned by Signature Victoria Mill Limited is in the process of being converted into 85 apartments across floors one to five.
The ground floor is currently occupied by various divisions of the NHS.
Despite the group's six administrations, administrators maintain the wider Signature Living Group remains unaffected.
Signature Living was contacted for a comment, and for the latest on each of the projects.