No such thing as a free lunch: Gordon Ramsay liable on personal guarantee

22 Jan 2015

You may recently have seen the newspaper reports relating to the landlords of the York and Albany in Parkway, Camden obtaining judgment against the celebrity chef on his guarantee of his company’s liability for rent as tenant of the gastro pub/hotel premises. Mr. Ramsay had not actually signed the guarantee personally but his signature was appended by a signature writing machine. The evidence was that this signature had been added to the lease on the instructions of Mr. Ramsay’s father-in-law, Mr. Christopher Hutcheson. Mr Ramsay is now famously estranged from his father-in-law but, at the time, he was his business manager. The evidence was that Mr Ramsay did allow Mr. Hutcheson to use the machine to append his signature to a wide range of contracts and, from that, Mr. Justice Morgan, adjudged that Hutcheson had Ramsay’s “general authority" to use the machine in all circumstances, including the signature on the guarantee of the lease. The case clearly turned upon its evidence but an issue arises whether general authority is actually sufficient to bind a principal to a commitment to enter into a guarantee. The judge did not cite any authorities and it is not clear whether counsel cited any authorities to the judge. There may be room for obtaining permission to appeal on the narrow point as to whether such general authority is sufficient, or whether Mr. Ramsay should not be bound without evidence of particular authority to apply the mechanical signature to this lease and, indeed, whether the authority should have been in writing.

Roger Billins is a consultant with Collyer Bristow LLP and author of “Agency Law”, published by Thomson, Sweet and Maxwell.

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