Coal Exchange firm applies for liquidation
The company running a hotel in Cardiff’s iconic Coal Exchange has confirmed it is applying for voluntary liquidation as it is no longer making enough money to pay its bills.
But while that means 77 employees will lose their jobs, the firm that owns the freehold of the Victorian Grade 2* listed building said it was actively seeking a new operator to reopen the hotel – offering potential hope to both the workers and customers who have booked events like weddings.
The Exchange Hotel, which during the month of January was only open at weekends, has already closed.
A statement from insolvency practitioners Leonard Curtis said: “The designated members [equivalent to directors] of Coal Exchange Operations LLP [Limited Liability Partnership] have engaged Leonard Curtis to assist with placing the LLP into creditors’ voluntary liquidation.The LLP made all employees redundant on January 17 2024 and issued redundancy letters and a fact sheet to assist.
“Leonard Curtis has engaged employment agents to help with this matter once appointed as liquidators, assisting former employees to support redundancy claims and associated queries.
“Designated members of the LLP have been encouraged by Leonard Curtis to contact customers to confirm their rights for claiming any deposits/refunds from bookings or events which will no longer be honoured.
“There is no further comment to make at this stage.”
Nation.Cymru has previously revealed how the hotel operating company was running up debts with HMRC as well as keeping revenue to which it was not entitled. Documents we have seen show that last year HMRC was pursuing the Exchange Hotel for unpaid VAT totalling more than £160k and unpaid employer national insurance contributions of more than £132k.
A further document showed that in April 2023 an insurance policy on the building was cancelled because the insurer had not been made aware that it was in a poor state of repair.
On December 27 the building was repossessed by its owners following health and safety concerns about the condition of the building that resulted in a prohibition notice being served by the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service.
The man behind the operating company is Eastbourne businessman Anil Rai, whose LinkedIn profile states: “Anil has over 24 years experience in Wealth Management. During this time Anil has developed a business that offers a highly personalised service to high net worth individuals, helping them to understand complex issues in a way that is easy to understand.
“Over the past two decades Anil has developed relationships with many companies and individuals who offer professional services within the finance, accounting, law and tax sectors. Anil can draw on their knowledge and experience to help solve complex issues for his clients.
“In recent years Anil has developed bespoke investment solutions for high net worth individuals in order to maximise their tax position and to enable them to achieve higher returns. He works closely with HMRC to make sure the investments are in line with the Government’s expectations.”
Yet Coal Exchange investors who thought they would receive a guaranteed return for participating in a scheme that saw them become the owners of hotel rooms they bought for up to £110k became angry when the payments dried up. In some cases Mr Rai’s firm was letting out their rooms to paying guests.
One room owner, who did not want to be named, told us: “What’s going on is shocking. I decided to buy a room because it seemed an easy investment, but also because I thought my money would go towards restoring the Coal Exchange to its former glory. It’s a beautiful building and I was excited to be part of it. I don’t know what’s going to happen now.”
Another room owner, who in the same way spoke on condition that they weren’t identified, also stated they had wanted to help the project to restore the Coal Exchange. But they added: “This has become a complete nightmare. There’s no revenue coming back and I certainly don’t want my room let out simply for the revenue to go into the leaseholder’s bank account.”
We saw evidence of many thousands of pounds being transferred to Mr Rai’s company.
Most of the rooms in the hotel are, in fact, owned by individuals from many parts of the world who bought them as an investment when the hotel was owned by the Liverpool-based Signature Living group, which went bust during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Rai’s company pulled out of the hotel and is now applying for voluntary liquidation after the building’s freehold owner Eden Grove Developments, whose sole director is former Cardiff Labour councillor Ashley Govier, blocked further payments from revenue that should have gone to room investors.
Mr Govier said: “We are actively seeking a new operator for the hotel and are confident that it will reopen. There may not be jobs for all of those who worked for the former operator, but there will be for some of them.
“The former operator is trying to lay the blame for the closure of the hotel on us but, as Nation.Cymru has reported, the company already had significant debts.
“Our first priority has to be to ensure the building is safe, and we’ll be appointing engineers to get the appropriate work done. It may take six weeks or so to do that.”
The Coal Exchange is the third of Mr Rai’s firms to have been put into liquidation.
Public records show that in 2013, his company Focus Wealth Ltd was put into liquidation with a net deficiency of more than £276,000. Of that, more than £83,000 was due to the Inland Revenue.
In 2021, his company Focus Wealth Consultancy Ltd was liquidated with an estimated deficiency of more than £171,000, including more than £41,000 owed to HMRC in respect of PAYE payments and £80,000 in corporation tax.
In addition, Mr Rai was previously a designated member of Focus Wealth Management LLP, whose licence to operate was revoked by the Financial Conduct Authority in 2015 after the firm failed to meet its financial commitments.
Focus Wealth Management LLP was struck off the Companies House register in 2019 after failing to file its accounts.
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