The new owner of Brocket Hall, the hotel and golf club in Hertfordshire which went into administration a year ago, has thrown out its 920 members after being bought by its former owner.
A newly formed company called Brocket Hall (UK), which has acquired the leasehold of the 543-acre estate comprising an 18th-century stately home with 46 bedrooms, the Auberge du Lac restaurant in the grounds, and a golf club centred around two courses, is headed by Dieter Klostermann.
Klostermann previously headed Brocket Hall International (BHI) which called in AlixPartners as administrators on 31 March 2015 after what was described as a "protracted period of poor trading", leading to financial difficulties for the business.
He is also the chairman and chief executive of Palmerston Hotels & Resorts, with which Brocket Hall (UK) has entered into a "long-term management contract". Palmerston has said that it will implement "an extensive development and refurbishment programme during 2016 and 2017".
Golf club members, including those who have paid £70,000 for life membership, have been told that the existing rights and privileges will not be transferred to the new company and that they will to apply for an interim membership of the new business.
Furious members are now considering taking legal action against Brocket Hall's new owner, believing their decision to evict existing members to be in breach of contract.
One member, Helen Hayward, said that she had no intention of rejoining the club under its current structure.
"I, like many members, are very upset at the loss of our club and long established golfing partnerships", she said. "I do understand that golf clubs are expensive to run, hence the huge amounts of money we have already paid, but surely no one with this knowledge would hand over any more?"
Klostermann called in AlixPartners as administrators on 31 March 2015 after what was described as a "protracted period of poor trading", leading to financial difficulties for the business.
The freehold of Brocket Hall, the one-time home of former British prime minister Lord Palmerston, is owned by Lord Brocket, who had hoped to regain control of the lease himself. Lord Brocket placed the estate into the hands of a board of trustees, who then leased it to BHI, after being jailed in 1991 for a £4.3m car insurance fraud.
He told The Times: "Having failed over the last five years to repair some £20m worth of damage done to the Grade I listed buildings, it is our sincere hope that he [Klostermann] will now have the means to take his responsibilities seriously."
Hayward's response was: "If Lord Brocket thinks anything will change, think again!"
Palmerston Hotels & Resorts is part of CCA, a company founded by Dieter Klostermann in 2000. As well as operating Brocket Hall, it also manages the Etna Gold Resort in Sicily.
According to Palmerston's website, it is in the process of developing seven resorts worldwide, including one near Durham, which was due to launch in 2014, but is yet to open.
Klostermann was unavailable for comment.