Gordon Ramsay gave evidence in court on Thursday to avoid paying £640,000-a-year rent for a pub, claiming his father-in-law faked his signature to authorise it.
The celebrity chef told a High Court judge he reacted with ‘shock and horror’ when he made the ‘devastating’” discovery that his wife Tana’s father used a ghost writer machine to ‘forge’ his signature.
Gordon and his wife Tana leaving the High Court (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Ramsay is claiming the machine was used without his knowledge to sign him up for the annual rent for the historic York & Albany pub near Regent’s Park in London.
He is seeking a declaration that the guarantee does not bind him because his signature ‘was not lawfully authorised’ when the 25-year lease was signed in 2007.
The York and Albany pub in north London (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
The chef worked with his father-in-law Christopher Hutcheson, who acted as his business manager for his group of companies, for a number of years.
He told the judge ‘deep and extensive trust in Hutcheson was entirely misplaced’ and his father-in-law defrauded him and the group ‘of hundreds of thousands of pounds’.
In October 2010, Hutcheson was ‘summarily dismissed from the group’. As Ramsay was ‘piecing his business back together’, his solicitors discovered that his signature had appeared on a personal guarantee in the lease for the York & Albany.
Ramsay told the court: “The company is still in the hook for the lease, and what was devastating for my wife and I was that we were guaranteeing it until 2033.
“There were many horrific discoveries because I can recognise my signature and pinpoint one forged by machine.”
The judge was told a key issue in the case was whether Hutcheson was authorised, while managing the Ramsay group businesses, to use a ‘ghost writer’ machine which he had obtained and which was used to sign Ramsay’s name on the personal guarantee.
Film director Gary Love, who owns the York & Albany, described Ramsay’s allegation as an ‘absurd’ attempt to wriggle out of his rental commitments.
Ramsay had agreed to the use of the ghost writer, which electronically replicates a signature using a fountain pen or ballpoint. But he says he did so ‘for purposes of merchandising material only’.
Ramsay says Hutcheson used it for various contracts, and to sign the York & Albany personal guarantee or loan, even though the chef had not authorised anyone to sign it on his behalf.
The case continues.