[Note: due to a previous legal objection, the logo above is an original representation of Signature Capital’s logo, and not its own.]
Unregulated hotel investment scheme Signature continues to struggle with repayments to investors, and has been the subject of a series of news articles from outlets including the BBC and the Liverpool Echo in recent weeks.
Six months ago in May the BBC first covered Signature’s late payments to investors.
Two weeks ago the BBC reported on international investors flying into the UK in attempt to chase their money.
Ms Grampe said she invested in the company’s football-themed George Best Hotel in Belfast and the money was meant to help pay for the care of her elderly parents.
The BBC has seen a document, signed by a senior Signature executive, appearing to confirm the amount owed and promising to repay her over six weekly payments, starting on 6 November.
To date, Ms Grampe said these payments had not been made.
Signature advertised its investments, which claimed returns of up to 16% per year, as “fantastic returns in a secure environment” and “a safe place”.
The Liverpool Echo is also regularly covering the attempts of investors to get their money out.
Earlier this week, an investor told the ECHO how Signature Living’s failure to pay her back made her dying mother’s final months of life tremendously difficult, with others also demanding they get the money they’re owed.
An Ireland-based investor is another to speak out today, telling the ECHO he cannot sleep at night for fears over his £300,000 of investments in Signature schemes.
Speaking about the impact the situation with Signature Living is having on him, he said: “I haven’t slept for the past three nights.
“I can’t tell my wife about this – she wants to book a holiday but we can’t while I don’t know what is happening with my money and I can’t tell her why.
According to The Caterer, Signature is to sell or refinance (i.e. borrow more money against) its properties.
Signature has told the BBC that investor payments have been delayed because “any bit of spare money that the company has goes on the building sites”. It also said that they are “financially robust and we have a strong track record of returning funds to our investors. Any suggestion otherwise is entirely wrong.” It blamed Brexit for a slowdown in sales and funding.
Signature’s bad publicity took a bizarre turn when the firm libelled Signature owner Lawrence Kenright’s own brother, Graham, in response to criticism.
Graham Kenwright said he and his brother Lawrence had fallen out in the past but reconciled during 2014-15, when he worked for Signature Living on the refurbishment of two of its Liverpool hotels.
“I wouldn’t have invested in one of Lawrence’s businesses,” he said during the interview.
Graham Kenwright also made a number of specific criticisms of the company, which have been explicitly denied.
The allegations against Graham Kenwright, marked “Private and Confidential” were sent to the BBC after a spokesman for Signature initially claimed he had been reported to the police for stalking.
Merseyside Police said it had no record of any such alleged offence and the spokesman subsequently said this was “my mistake”.
The letter, sent by Signature’s lawyers, instead alleged Graham Kenwright harassed his brother’s family, although it provided no contemporaneous evidence of this.
It also said he had been reported to the police for alleged fraud.
Merseyside Police subsequently confirmed this report was made during the afternoon on which the letter was sent.
It will be interesting to say where the allegation of fraud against Graham Kenwright (who presumably denies any wrongdoing) goes.
Making an allegation of fraud to the police purely so you can tell a journalist that they’ve been accused of fraud on the same afternoon seems like the definition of wasting police time. Unless of course there actually is a case for Kenwright 1 to answer.
At a TedX event in July (a franchised offshoot of the popular speaking events where commentators talk about a diverse range of topics in identical monotonous oratory) Kenright spoke eloquently about his business problems in 2009.
I didn’t understand the property market at the time but I thought that’s just what you do.
One day I got a call from a liquidator. He said your bank had been on the phone, they’ve got a couple of questions they want me to ask you.
Everything was fine until I got to the front door to the development site that I had where I had invested all of my money, every single last penny, and I tried the key in the door and it wouldn’t fit. I tried it sideways, I tried it upside down, I even put it away and try the new set of keys that I knew it wouldn’t be but I tried them as well.
…I stood there for another five or ten minutes trying to reason with the door to let me in and if some way they let me in maybe my issues would all be over. Ultimately I turned away and I walked home. Halfway home I was realising that the personal guarantee that I gave the bank actually was joint and several, and the guarantee spread across the two, so I was going to lose that property, I was going to lose my home as well.
So I did what all developers doing at the time of the world crash: I went to bed, I stayed there for three days, and a bailiff come to the door and said “Mr. Kenwright, we’re going to take away your property today” and I used all of my Scouse guile to ensure that I stayed and thankfully I did. And then I went back to bed.
I went to bed for three whole months until one day I got a phone call from my daughter – my daughter went to private school – and she was 14 years of age luckily for me she had an extremely intelligent headteacher who pulled her out of class said to her “you tell your father why we are throwing you out of school today”. My daughter came on the phone and screamed as loud as she could “you’re lying” “you’re the chief” “how could you do it to me at a pivotal time in my life” “how dare you do that to me” – the sort of words you never want to hear as a father.
I bolted upright, I phoned up my best friend, I said whatever you have, please can you lend me it, give me anything, anything. He gave me an amount of money, I ran to the school, I paid the school fees and my daughter finished her school, got a degree and finally started speaking to me again. I was wrong, she was right.
But what I aligned with that was the sweet and the bitter. I used that bitter to galvanize me into who I am today. Understanding what it takes to run through walls. Using my daughter’s high-pitched tone to go into my mind’s eye to use as a tool every time I need it. And that’s exactly what I did.
Ten years on I ended up with a whole array of hotels, businesses, and I don’t know how I got there. All I know is I kept my head down and I was galvanised and I pushed through.
Signature Living claims assets worth £261m in a brochure recently sent to investors.