There has been much chat this week about the UK hotel sector having cleared up its messy distress and marching towards a brighter tomorrow. But as any hotel guest knows, it always pays to check down the back of the bed before moving on.
Checking down the back of the bed – or indeed down the back of the sofa for coins – is Barclays, which has pointed out that there is still a bit of cleaning up to do around the Von Essen estate. The bank is suing the hotel’s auditors, Grant Thornton, claiming that it was misled about the health of Von Essen’s accounts, which led it, along with Lloyds Bank, to lend the company GBP250m, only to see it go under mere months later.
Court documents show that Barclays felt Grant Thornton acted negligently, to which Grant Thornton has so far responded that as a large professional services firm “there are inevitably occasions where we become involved in legal claims”.
Neither Barclays nor Grant Thornton have commented further and, somewhat unusually given past form, neither has Andrew Davis, Von Essen founder and a man found under ‘colourful’ in the encyclopaedia. Dubbed ‘the five-star fantasist’ by the Daily Mail, Davis built up a reputation for being able to spin an entertaining yarn during Von Essen’s rise.
Given that at one point Von Essen administrators Ernst & Young were reported to have been in touch with the City of London police as they waded through the company’s accounts, Davis’s reluctance to pop back into the public eye is understandable.