In February 2014 after almost 2 years of high profile public campaigning, extensive media coverage, and a Thanet District Council (TDC) scrutiny panel investigation, TDCs then ruling Labour Cabinet reluctantly bowed to public pressure and decided to terminate the council’s agreement with Pleasurama developers SFP Ventures (UK) Limited.
Appointed in 2002 to build a prestigious seafront development of 107 luxury flats and a 60 bed hotel, SFP Ventures (UK) Limited totally failed, to progress this large construction project. Apart from building some rudimentary foundations in 2010-11, SFP left the Pleasurama site to deteriorate and to blight Ramsgate’s seafront for over a decade. A situation which still continues to this day.
On deciding to terminate its agreement with SFP Ventures, TDC began negotiations with Cardy Construction who were at the time SFP’s building contractors. As part of the negotiations between Cardy and TDC it was agreed that the company would buy out SFP Ventures and, according to a press release published on Thanet Council’s website in ??? 2014 , the “firm would be renamed and incorporated into the Cardy group of companies”.
In November 2014 the 2 directors of SFP Ventures, Shaun Patrick Keegan and Natalie Wood resigned and were replaced by Michael Stannard, the managing Director of Cardy Construction and its parent company Cardy Group Holdings Limited. The 2016 annual return for SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd, published on the Companies House website shows Stanndard as being the sole director of the company. It also shows that the owner of SFP Ventures was now a company called Cardy Ramsgate Limited which had acquired company shares previously held be Shaun Patrick Keegan on 31 December 2015.
Cardy Ramsgate Limited was established on 4th February 2015. Documents published on the Companies House website show that Michael Stannard was its sole director and shareholder. Because Cardy Ramsgate held the only share in SFP Ventures Limited, this made Stannard the sole owner SFP too. But contrary to the press release published on TDCs website SFP Ventures and its owner Cardy Ramsgate never, despite the use of the Cardy name, became part of the Cardy group of companies. Both SFP Ventures and its owners Cardy Ramsgate remained firmly outside of the control of the Cardy empire and under the total control of Michael Stannard.
The takeover of SFP Ventures by Stannard and Cardy Ramsgate appeared to have achieved Thanet Council’s objective of eliminating any further involvement by former company owner Shaun Patrick Keegan, and former company financier, Colin Hill, (who is, co-incidentally, married to Keegan’s daughter), with the Ramsgate Pleasurama project. But appearances can often be deceptive.
In 2013, just before Cardy began negotiations with TDC about taking over SFP Ventures, it was announced that the company had been granted planning permission to build a £150million, 850 house development at the Brooke Peninsula site, Lowestoft. The owner of the site was, and remains, Flight Services SA, a Swiss company which is owned by former SFP financier Colin Hill. The scale and potential profitability of this major project would, I believe, have provided Colin Hill and his associates with significant influence and leverage over Stannard and his Cardy empire. Something which became apparent in the summer of 2016.
According to documents published on the Companies House website, as a result of an arbitration claim, Cardy’s cash flow hit major problems in 2016 and the company was struggling to pay its creditors. So serious was the situation that Stannard approached insolvency practitioners RSM on 22nd July 2016. Just 14 days later, on 4th August 2016, Cardy Construction was forced into administration and 200 staff and sub-contractors were sacked. The rest of the Cardy Group of companies entered administration shortly afterwards, reportedly owing creditors the staggering sum of £18million.
Unbelievably, whilst Cardy was in a state of financial collapse, its staff being sacked and its creditors wondering when, or if, they would be paid, Cardy boss Stannard was engaged in doing his own private, and presumably very lucrative, business deal. On 20th July 2016 , Stannard secured a loan for Cardy Ramsgate of £3million from a company called Mintal Group Inc, According to Land Register documents, on the same day the loan was granted, the money was used by Stannard/ Cardy Ramsgate to purchase the freehold of the Pleasurama site from Thanet District Council.
My research has revealed that Mintal Group Inc was set up on November 14 November 2012 by commercial law firm Shirley and Associates. The law firm’s address is 13th floor Torre ADR, Avenida Samuel Lewis, Panama City. Mintal Group Inc is registered at this address. The Panama Papers database reveals that this address is also used by literally hundreds of secretive companies identified by this massive offshore company data leak. I also discovered that Mintal Group Inc has 7 directors who between them have held positions in 9,675 companies. These are clearly “sham directors” who are put in place to cover the identity of the real owners of the company. Talking of which, Mintal Group Inc’s £3million loan to Cardy Ramsgate was, according to documents published on the Companies House website, authorised by Colin Hill and his son Robbie. Could it be the case that Colin and Robbie Hill are the real owners of Mintal Group Inc?
Soon after the freehold of the Pleasurama site had been bought off Thanet Council by Stannard/ Cardy Ramsgate there is a flurry of activity on the Companies House website. The name of Cardy Ramsgate is changed to the Ramsgate Development Company and SFP Ventures UK Ltd is renamed Aldress Developments SE Ltd. On 22 August 2016 Michael Stannard resigns as Director of Cardy Ramsgate and is replaced by Anthony Albert Hollis. On 17 August 2016 Anthony Albert Hollis also becomes a director of SFP Ventures (UK) Limited, with Stannard resigning from the board on 22 August 2016. Within just one month of the freehold of the Pleasurama site being sold Anthony Albert Hollis has replaced Stannard as the owner of both Cardy Ramsgate (now the Ramsgate Development Company) and SFP Ventures UK Ltd (now Aldress Developments SE Ltd).
Who is Anthony Albert Hollis? Well he’s a 78 year old accountant from Essex who has a longstanding and extensive business relationship with Colin Hill, his family, and associates. This can be easily verified through the Companies House website. It therefore appears that with the help of former Cardy managing director Michael Stannard, his business colleague, Anthony Hollis and loan from a Panamanian registered company they probably own (Mintal Group Inc), Colin Hill and his son Robbie are now the freehold owners of the Pleasurama site. If you still don’t believe me then I suggest you check the Companies House website and the latest confirmation statement for the Ramsgate Development Company Limited (formerly Cardy Ramsgate) dated February 2017. The statement lists the Persons with Significant Control ( a person holding between 25% & 50% of shares or voting rights in the company ) of the Ramsgate Development Company as Colin and Robbie Hill.
So there you have it the owners of the Ramsgate Pleasurama site have now been revealed. The question remaining is whether the Hills will build something on the site, or can the people of Ramsgate regain control of the Pleasurama site? I’ll be returning to this subject shortly. In the meantime with an election in the air, we need candidates for the Ramsgate area who will fight hard to to hold the Pleasurama owners to account and try to secure the return of the land to the Council and use the site for purposes determined by Ramsgate residents.