Chris Hutcheson, the former chief executive officer of Gordon Ramsay Holdings (GRH), has hit out at the celebrity chef and started legal proceedings for wrongful dismissal.
Ramsay's father-in-law, who masterminded the rapid growth of the celebrity chef's restaurant empire over the past decade, left GRH suddenly last month with an "interim management team" put in place.
While reports have suggested the rupture was the result of a £1.5m personal loan from GRH to Hutcheson when the group was in financial difficulty, the former CEO has denied any financial impropriety.
In an interview with theMail on Sunday, Hutcheson has now hit out at Ramsay saying his son-in-law had delivered the news of his dismissal via his solicitor before hiring minders to prevent him re-entering the company's head office.
He added that GRH cited 10 "tenuous" reasons for his dismissal. "It said I had signed insurance proposal forms inaccurately and misrepresented situations; that I had failed to send out sales invoices - like I'd be doing that - and misused company credit cards and the directors' loan account," he said.
"I have no idea where this figure of a missing £1.5m from the company has come from," Hutcheson said. "I have taken money out of the company, just as Gordon would do, in the normal course of events, and it was registered immediately in the directors' loan account."
Hutcheson set up GRH with Ramsay in 1998 and together the duo built the business, which includes restaurants across five continents. However, rapid over-expansion left GRH struggling to pay back a £10m loan from the Royal Bank of Scotland and a tax bill of £7.2m. Auditors at KPMG proposed bankruptcy, but Ramsay and Hutcheson restructured the debts, and in its overseas restaurants GRH became consultants rather than owners. However, the group's most recent figures, released in August, showed combined losses of £8m for the year ending August 2009.
Hutcheson told the Mail on Sunday that the overseas expansion plans had been "complete uncontrolled nightmares". "We had done some wonderful deals with Blackstone Private Equity in the UK - Claridge's, the Connaught, the Berkeley and the Savoy. They were great cash cows for us. So when they said come and open with us in New York, LA and Versailles, then too bloody right we did. But they were complete uncontrolled nightmares. And when it went wrong it became my job to get them right. That's what I spent all my time doing and I think I did a very good job," he said.
"The bank said, quite simply, bring in external funds to pay off HMRC, get rid of your hammering of cash to non UK operations and come to arrangements with your creditors. I did all these things. On Boxing Day 2008 I went to see Blackstone and within two weeks we had renegotiated all the deals so we were off the hook."
Hutcheson added: "This marriage of Gordon and Tana was a marriage of three. We were a package. It was my job to protect that brand."
A spokesman for GRH told the Daily Mail: "Gordon and Tana are shocked and saddened by Chris's actions. It has been made very clear to Chris why his position with the company had become untenable. As far as Gordon and Tana are concerned this is a private business and family matter and they won't be responding publicly."
By Kerstin Kühn
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