Signature Living bemoans India sale to underbidder

The hotel developer has emerged as a failed bidder for Liverpool’s India Buildings, despite offering £3m more than the purchaser, Shelborn Asset Management.

Green Property announced last week that it had sold the 500,000 sq ft India Buildings to Shelborn for £17m. The building was being marketed for around £15m.

Writing on his blog, Lawrence Kenwright, owner of Signature Living, said that Green had rejected his £20m offer and plans for a five-star hotel conversion, and said that he was “greatly concerned” that the building had been sold to a fund rather than a local investor.

Kenwright wrote: “This iconic Liverpool building will once again be owned by someone who sees it as just another profit line. If Signature Living has proved anything in its seven-year history, it’s that we not only give all our buildings a new lease of life, we also give them a huge online presence, which fans of the city, from all over the world can rejoice in the resurgence of this great building. Yet here we are allowing an outside London fund to come in and take on a building, which will just be another building to them, and purchase it in the manner they have, by underbidding another company by £3m.

“In my view, this does not allow the building the chance to wrestle itself from the smell of deception, which has haunted it since the fraudulent past of two now jailed developers.”

Green bought the property in 2009 with funding from Allied Irish Bank. The building suffered under previous owner Achilleas Kallakis’ Atlas Group and numerous tenants left after the building’s maintenance fell behind. Kallakis paid £45m for the building in 2004.

The property is currently 80% vacant.

In response, Mike Tapp, director of Green Property, said: “We sold the property to Shelborn who illustrated throughout our sales process that they were the most credible counterparty both in terms of the level of due diligence they carried out and the proof of funds available to execute the transaction.”

Earlier this month Signature Living announced that it had bought West Africa House, a 20th century building also on Water Street, for conversion into serviced apartments. Café Oh Me Oh My occupies the ground floor but the rest of the 65,000 sq ft building is vacant.

Another Water Street building, the nearby Martins Bank, is being sold by Castlewood Property to Starwood for an office-to-hotel conversion, first mooted in 2014.

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The agent is quoted in the local press as saying the building can rise again as an office building, that until recently it was known as one of Liverpool’s best.

Perhaps the winning bidder’s vision for this great building was simply preferred. After all it did still secure more than the asking price.

With over 300,000 square feet of office space available inside, I would much rather see this filled with decent jobs for Liverpool workers than simply turned into a hotel offering few jobs and principally just jobs cleaning rooms and checking in guests. With or without a “huge online presence” (whatever that is supposed to mean).

By Mike

With all due respect to signature living, a business that grows using the ‘guaranteed return for 3 years’ model is not one that I’d like to see any more of in Liverpool.
Often the strength of a bidder is more beneficial than the financial offer, no doubt speed of completion would have been a real factor in this disposal.

By J

By the way, Place North West, you should change your article title.

The asking price was £15m. The winning bidder paid £17m.

As your article does not make this fact clear, I don’t think “underbidder” is a fair description bearing in mind the way readers unfamiliar with the facts will read this otherwise ambiguous term.

By Mike

UPDATE: Additional comment from Green Property

By Ed.

Kenwright Jnr seems to think he has some sort of right to buy buildings in town. Surely he’s had more than enough from ‘Big’ Joe?

By Emma R

The Signature Living portfolio is all a little bit DIY isn’t it – more Argos inspired than architect designed, and not what Liverpool really needs in the ongoing quest to raise it’s game.

By James R