THE former owner of a top Bolton hotel told a hearing she was pressurised into signing an agreement meaning she was liable for the firm’s £340 million debt.
Jan Hampton, a former employee of hotel company Macdonald, owned and ran the Egerton House Hotel from 2003 until 2010 when Macdonald took ownership of it.
She remained a director of the business and also became a minority shareholder after investing £25,000 into the struggling 29-room hotel — which closed in January of this year — with Macdonald investing £75,000.
Mrs Hampton left the business in November, 2012 and is now taking Egerton House Hotel Bolton Ltd to tribunal for unfair dismissal.
She alleges that while on holiday in Australia in 2010, she was pressurised by Macdonald’s corporate finance director, James Davidson, into signing an agreement that she said would leave her liable for the hotel firm’s £340 million debts.
But yesterday, Mr Davidson strongly disputed claims that he was pressurising Mrs Hampton to sign anything as he he was unable to reach her in Australia.
He also told the tribunal at Alexandra House in Manchester that the agreement proposed would not mean she was burdened with any such debts.
He said the bank had requested Mrs Hampton’s signature to rubber stamp an agreement that would see Macdonald able to fund the struggling hotel after it was unable to secure a bank loan.
It was also revealed by Mr Davidson that Macdonald has now applied for planning permission to build flats on the site where the hotel currently stands.
The court heard that Mr Davidson had “harassed” Mrs Hampton, putting her “under great pressure”.
Mr Davidson said: “I take great exception to that. I did not put any pressure on her because I couldn’t contact her.”
He said the agreement was instead signed on Mrs Hampton’s behalf by her solicitors, with her agreement, something she denies.
The court also heard that Mr Davidson was convicted on charges of fraud and embezzlement in 1991 in Scotland and sentenced to 30 months in prison.
Mr Davidson said that Mrs Hampton, who previously worked in Macdonald’s human resources department, would have been aware of his conviction, something she also denies.
The tribunal continues.