Gordon Ramsay yesterday lost a long running Court case in which he claimed he was not liable to pay alleged outstanding rent payments.
Ramsay, well known for his string of outspoken cooking programmes, had issued proceedings seeking a declaration that his signature on a Lease (which purported to personally guarantee the obligation to pay rent) was ‘forged’ by his father in law, Chris Hutcheson.
In the proceedings the celebrity chef alleged that his now estranged father in law, who at the relevant time was the CEO of Mr Ramsay’s group of companies, had used a ‘ghost writer’ machine to affix his signature to a Lease and that he was not lawfully authorised to do so. A ghost writer machine is commonly used by authors or celebrities to electronically sign a large amount of books or memorabilia in a short period of time without the individual having to physically write their signature each time.
The Lease in question relates to a property known as the York & Albany pub in North London where the annual rent is £640,000. The owner of the pub stated that Mr Ramsay’s claim that his signature was forged was an attempt by him to ‘wriggle out of his rental commitments’.
In his evidence Mr Ramsay stated that he was aware of the ghost writer machine but that he did not authorise it to be used to sign legal documents. In particular Mr Ramsay said that he was profoundly shocked upon discovering the personal guarantee particularly as he said he had no knowledge of the documents being ‘signed’.
Mr Justice Morgan sitting in the High Court held that it was ‘entirely implausible’ that Mr Ramsay was not aware of the full extent to which the ghost writing machine was used. In particular it was held that Mr Hutcheson did not exceed ‘the wide general authority conferred on him’ and that as a result Mr Ramsay, acting through Mr Hutcheson as his agent, was bound by the guarantee.
Mr Ramsay is understood to have asked for permission to appeal after Mr Justice Morgan delivered his judgment but that request was refused on the ground that Mr Justice Morgan was not satisfied there was a real prospect of the appeal succeeding. It is possible for Mr Ramsay to now apply to the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal.
It is therefore anticipated that this may not be the final chapter in this case particularly when it forms part of the wider dispute between Ramsay and his father in law following the acrimonious dismissal of Mr Hutcheson for alleged ‘gross misconduct’ in 2010.