The television celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey has lost a legal dispute after admitting that his staff often gave business guarantees in his name and used his signature without him knowing.
The issue arose after Mr Ramsey’s company leased premises from businessman Gary Love. Mr Love had bought the premises in poor condition and started to convert them into a restaurant and hotel.
Mr Ramsey’s company had agreed in principle to buy the freehold on condition that the redevelopment was completed. The agreement named Mr Ramsey as a guarantor and featured his signature.
The signature was added by Mr Ramsey’s father-in-law, who was the chief executive of Mr Ramsey’s company. He used a signature writing machine to do it. The development did not proceed to the father-in-law’s satisfaction so he withdrew from the agreement, prompting Mr Love to invoke the guarantee.
Mr Ramsey asserted that he was not bound by the guarantee because his father-in-law had no authority to place his signature on the document or to commit him to such an agreement. There had been no discussion about any guarantee and Mr Ramsey knew nothing about it. The father-in-law had since been dismissed from the company.
During the hearing, the court heard evidence that Mr Ramsey had given significant commercial responsibility to his father-in-law and trusted him totally. Mr Ramsey also acknowledged his own lack of business acumen, and that he knew that the signature writing machine was frequently and routinely used on legal documents.
The evidence also showed that he often gave a personal guarantee when his companies took over a new restaurant.
The court held that Mr Ramsey was bound by the guarantee because he had not demonstrated on the balance of probabilities that he did not know about it. It was also clear that the father-in-law had been acting within a general wide authority conferred on him by Mr Ramsey.
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