A South Canterbury Finance director muddied related-party links to the company’s single biggest debtor by making his freezing worker brother-in-law the sole owner of Auckland’s five star Hyatt Regency hotel.
South Canterbury loans to redevelop the hotel ballooned to $42.3m and government receivers are likely to book multi-million dollar losses when they finally sell it.
According to documents filed with the Companies Office 66-year-old retired Christchurch meatworker Peter Symes was a director and the 100% owner of the company controlling the Hyatt between February 2009 and August 2010.
The company had formerly been owned by South Canterbury or its parent company Southbury Group.
PETER SYMES: 66, retired meatworker, cancer victim – and one-time owner of the Hyatt Regency hotel
The National Business Review caught up with Mr Symes yesterday. The one-time Hyatt owner had just finished a session of chemotherapy.
Mr Symes – who suffers bowel and lung cancer – told NBR he is the brother-in-law of former South Canterbury director Edward Sullivan.
He confirmed Mr Sullivan approached him to become a director and shareholder in numerous Hyatt-related companies in December 2008.
“My understanding is I was brought in because there were too many people from one company [South Canterbury] involved,” Mr Symes said.
Mr Symes said he acted on Mr Sullivan’s instructions.
“I’m going from memory here, that these papers came up from RSM Law [Mr Sullivan’s firm] with explanations ‘please sign here and return’ – and I did,” he said.
Mr Symes’ name appears on several documents filed with the Ministry of Economic Development authorising loans from South Canterbury.
He had never visited the hotel and was concerned his signature had been used to run up tens of millions of dollars of debt.
Former South Canterbury executives are now pointing the finger at Mr Sullivan over the elaborate shell-games that hid the ownership of the Hyatt.
Former chief executive Lachie McLeod said of the hotel development: “The Hyatt’s an interesting one. It was a loan that was well-entrenched when I started with South Canterbury Finance. It was initiated by Allan and Edward and the board.”
Allan Hubbard, when asked about Mr Syme’s unlikely ownership of a prime Auckland landmark, said: “I suppose he must have wanted to buy it. I mean, you’d have to ask Edward about that.”
Questions posed to Mr Sullivan concerning Mr Symes and the Hyatt were dealt with by RSM Law. The Timaru legal firm said Mr Sullivan was out of the country and was not available for comment.
UNBELIEVABLE: Peter Symes who has the number plate BLVABL is a retired meatworker who spent 42 years at the same works. He said he was asked by brother-in-law South Canterbury director Edward Sullivan to sign papers which made Mr Symes the sole legal owner of the Hyatt Regency Hotel – and a $42.3 million South Canterbury loan. Mr Symes, left, is tending his garden outside his garage. He has been suffering from lung and bowel cancer and yesterday underwent further chemotherapy.
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