Creditors back television's Mr Hotel over liquidation
A Westcountry hotelier who shot to fame in his own fly-on-the-wall TV documentary, last year put three of his businesses into liquidation with debts of several thousands, it has emerged.
But the local traders to whom the businesses still owe money are, in the main, happy to stand by the man who has become an unlikely television hit, even making a cameo appearance on comedian Harry Hill's show.
Out-of-pocket creditors could have been forgiven for harbouring a grudge against a Mark Jenkins, manager of the Grosvenor hotel in Torquay, and who has subsequently gone on to enjoy success as the protagonist in Channel 4 fly-on-the-wall series The Hotel. Yet the majority of those owed money seem to hold nothing but admiration for a man who they say has simply made innocent mistakes.
"Mr Jenkins has done everything he can to keep jobs in Torbay – I've got absolutely no problem with how he has run his business," said one Devon-based businessman, who was among an army of creditors who came out in defence of Mr Jenkins after being contacted by the Western Morning News.
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The man, who asked not to be named, lost nearly £6,000 but said he had no grudge with Mr Jenkins, and was proud to count himself among his list of suppliers.
He added: "Mark has tried his hardest not to go bust. I am not a man to kick someone when they're down, and I'm happy to support him because he is doing well for Torbay."
Inglewood Hotel Limited formerly traded the business of the Inglewood, Kistor and Grosvenor hotels prior to its cessation in June 2011.
Mr Jenkins was director since 2002 and, despite the corporate changes, is still referred to as proprietor of the hotel company.
The freeholds to each of the hotels were owned by Mr Jenkins personally and the company traded the hotels under lease agreements with the freeholder. The trading of the three hotels is now being carried out by different trading entities.
The Grosvenor has since gone on feature in its own documentary series, and assured Mr Jenkins an extension to Andy Warhol's 15 minutes of fame.
The series has drawn comparisons with Fawlty Towers due to Mr Jenkins' eccentric management style, though his new-found "celebrity status" has been a kick in the teeth for some creditors.
They include John Patt, managing director of John Patt's Ltd fresh produce firm, who said he was owed around £5,500 when the businesses were put into administration.
Mr Patt, of Barnstaple in North Devon, said: "Seeing Mark Jenkins on the television and in the newspaper saying that business is excellent is a very bitter pill to swallow.
"We are not a large company and I appreciate that we are only one of the suppliers who have lost money, but to us a £5,500 loss is an unacceptable situation."
Others, however, are content to wipe the slate. One creditor, owed just over £3,500, said: "I'm not going to get a penny back, but I was at the creditors' meeting and I thought Mr Jenkins came across as an honest, decent and genuine man.
"He's not the only person in the world to have made the odd mistake.
"But he has kept dozens of people in jobs and he has helped bring television cameras to Torbay. He didn't ask for the documentary to be made about him, and doesn't live the life of Riley."
In fact the 51-year-old lives in one room of the Grosvenor, and only recently began paying himself a wage, of £300 per week. He has seven-figure negative equity and has seen the collapse of his marriage.
Despite the setbacks, caused by "a lack of support and funding" from banks, he is determined to honour the faith his suppliers – and the people of Torquay – have shown in him.
"I am so sorry that anybody lost money in all this," he said. "Obviously, it was never my intention and we have continued to trade with suppliers as much as possible. I can understand why some people are upset.But I'd never had a company liquidated in my life, and I'm not one of these characters who lives the high life while sticking two fingers up to everyone else.
"A sane person would have walked away from this, but I want to try and help Torquay as much as possible. And, judging by what people in the industry are saying, The Hotel has helped show tourists a little of the area I know and love."