THE wife of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay has told a judge of her “extremely distressing” discovery that her father and brother were “systematically defrauding” her husband.
Tana Ramsay, a close friend of Victoria Beckham, made the allegation yesterday as she gave evidence in a legal action in which her husband is accusing her father, Christopher Hutcheson, of using a ghost writer machine to “forge” his signature.
Ramsay claims the machine was used without his knowledge to make him personally liable for the £640,000-a-year annual rental on the historic York & Albany pub near Regent’s Park in London.
He is asking a High Court judge to grant him a declaration that the rental guarantee is not binding because his signature “was not lawfully authorised” when the 25-year lease was signed in 2007.
Film director Gary Love, who owns the York & Albany, has described Ramsay’s allegation as an “absurd” attempt to wriggle out of his rental commitments.
Mr Hutcheson acted as business manager for the Ramsay group of companies until the chef sacked him and Tana’s brother, Adam, on the grounds of “gross misconduct” in 2010.Tana married Ramsay in 1996 and has four children with him. Yesterday, the third day of the hearing, she spoke at London’s High Court about her “dominating, very clever” father.
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Mrs Ramsay said in her witness statement: “The knowledge that my father and brother had been systematically defrauding my husband was extremely distressing to me.”
She said she was aware of the use of the ghost writer machine, which enabled her husband’s signature to be reproduced electronically, but thought it was for signing merchandise when her husband was unavailable.
She recalled “the shock on Gordon’s face” and the horror when the couple’s solicitor Larry Nathan, of law firm Mishcon de Reya, told her husband that the lease for the York & Albany included a personal guarantee from him for 25 years.
In cross-examination, she told Chancery Division judge Mr Justice Morgan: “Since the departure of my father and my brother from the business it has been a huge upheaval, but certainly myself I feel very comfortable with what the company has become. Whilst not immediately, it is certainly more transparent and on a much more solid basis.”
Agreeing with the suggestion that her father was a dominating presence, she said: “Not only for me, but my siblings as well.”
She added: “I think certainly when Gordon asked questions or sort of wanted to know things, sometimes it would be a case of my father keeping him incredibly busy or out of the country with not enough time to be told everything.”
When asked by the judge if her father gave the impression that “Gordon doesn’t understand these things and trust me to look after the financial side”, Mrs Ramsay replied: “Yes, my lord, that would be true.”
Describing the current family rift, Mrs Ramsay said: “I don’t really speak to my father since he left the company unless it is concerning his grandchildren.”
Earlier in the trial, Ramsay told the judge that his “deep and extensive trust” in his father-in-law was “entirely misplaced” and that Hutcheson had defrauded him “of hundreds of thousands of pounds”.
Romie Tager QC cross-examined Ramsay on Mr Love’s behalf. He suggested the chef was not telling the truth and knew about Mr Hutcheson using the ghost writer, which electronically replicates a signature using a fountain pen or ballpoint, to sign business documents long before the York & Albany deal.
Mr Tager suggested to him: “The fact is you didn’t care whether the machine was used to write the signature and you don’t really care today.”
Ramsay said: “That is untrue. I brought this case to court because of the shock and unhappiness of being somewhat stitched on a guarantee my wife and I not were not a party to.”
Gordon Ramsay Holdings won a bidding war to secure the 160-year-old York & Albany building. The chef said in a written statement that the lease, though not binding on him personally, was binding on Gordon Ramsay Holdings Ltd (GRHL) and on Gordon Ramsay Holdings International Ltd (GRHI).
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