Dakota troubles denied

SCOTTISH hotelier Ken McCulloch insisted it was "business as usual" for his Dakota hotel chain following the publication yesterday of a winding-up petition by his Formula One racing business partner David Coulthard for their Nottingham establishment.

McCulloch said the brand, with hotels at Eurocentral in Lanarkshire and next to the Forth road bridge, will continue to expand and be successful. He told The Scotsman he is dismayed that Coulthard, a co-investor alongside American property investor Peter Morris, has taken matters into his own hands over an unpaid debt. The petition is due to be held on 14 November but McCulloch said the matter will be resolved next week.

McCulloch, founder of the Malmaison hotel chain, said: "Absolutely nothing has changed. It was a shareholder issue but there was absolutely no need for David to do this. He will be paid. I can't understand why he did this. I did try to speak to him.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"I have always had great respect for David but his head has been turned. I can't speak for David but it is regrettable."

It is understood Coulthard decided to take action after personally lending the Dakota in Sherwood Park hundreds of thousands of pounds. The business relationship between the two expat Scots based in Monaco and the American property millionaire seems to be on shaky ground.

In previous months allegations of impropriety and missing millions have engulfed the three-way partnership. The businessmen are also in the process of selling their luxury Columbus Hotel in Monaco for an estimated 50 million (34m).

McCulloch said the 181-room hotel is being sold to allow him to focus on the Dakota hotel chain and pay off his partners, but there is a dispute about the hotel's value and whether a sale will go through.

Morris's spokesman, Jack Irvine, said: "This winding-up action by David Coulthard gives the lie to the claim by McCulloch that they remain good friends and this is simply a dispute between McCulloch and Morris.

"Morris and Coulthard are determined to see justice done. McCulloch is intent on selling the Columbus at 20-30m below its true market value to protect his brand but totally ignoring his fiduciary duties. Both Coulthard and Morris, who hold the majority shares, are determined the Columbus can achieve its true market value."

McCulloch said a sale should be concluded soon. However, Morris and Coulthard have not completed the signed mandate to allow the sale to go through.

Morris recently appointed forensic accountants PKF to unpick the financial records of the Columbus hotel. The accountants' report queried payments made by the company to other companies and individuals and their relatives, intercompany transfers and accounting practices.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

McCulloch said the story of missing millions is "seriously old news". He added: "I have seen nothing from any accountant, anywhere. We have nothing to hide. If people choose to fling allegations around, then they had better be able to substantiate them. That is not going to stop the plans that we have and what we do.

"This has been going on for 12 months now and I want to clean up this mess and get on with building the brand Dakota."