CRISIS-HIT hotelier Stephanie Booth has broken her silence with an emotional account of the weeks following the collapse of her empire.
In an exclusive interview with the Leader, Mrs Booth tells of reaching her “lowest point” after her business entered administration, her dog died and she faced losing her home.
“I know I come across as a hard nosed businesswoman, but I do have a soft side,” says a calm and resolute Stephanie Booth.
“It is true that relationships with those important to you are what really counts in life.”
And Mrs Booth should know.
The high profile hotelier, reality TV star and one-time potential owner of Wrexham FC readily admits her life so far has been a rollercoaster ride.
But even by these standards the events of 2011 are going to make it a year to remember – and it is still only August.
Last month the business empire she had built up over many years collapsed, with a number of properties closing and Llangollen Hotels Ltd and its parent company Global Investment Group entering administration.
Four hotels were put up sale – The Chainbridge, The Wild Pheasant and Bryn Howel in Llangollen and Bodidris Hall, Llandegla – and throughout the process Mrs Booth has largely been silent.
But in a new interview with the Leader, she has revealed that while she could yet lose her home, she intends to stay in the region and make a fresh start.
Mrs Booth believes the crisis in her business was triggered by the decision not to grant her extra time to settle an £800,000 tax bill – a decision she says was taken by “faceless pen pushers closing down good businesses which were making a profit”.
“We could have paid it given just an extra three months, but they said no,” she said.
“That came from people based in the Home Counties who have no regard for the economic situation in North Wales.
“I was providing valuable employment for hundreds of people. All of a sudden loyal members of staff who had been with us for years were out of work.”
As Mrs Booth sees it, the move abruptly ended years of dedicated effort.
“We have been asked by people in the industry how could we make such good profits from our hotels,” she said. “The answer is hard work, and lots of it.
“We treated our staff well and they went the extra mile for us. That’s so important, we were a great team with passion and enthusiasm.”
Mrs Booth said many former employees have been in contact with her to say if she does go back into business, they would love to work for her again.
“When people go out of their way to tell you that, it is so humbling.
“My employees and customers are the people I feel so sorry for in all of this.
“The support I have had has been tremendous and I would like to thank everyone who has taken the trouble to offer help. It is greatly appreciated.
“I have received some criticism but that’s been greatly outweighed by messages of support.”
She continued: “I have had low points in my life before but I have always bounced back and that’s what I intend to do this time.
“I would like to return to business, I don’t know in what capacity.
“I have a very simple philosophy in life - I can’t alter the past, just the future.”
Mrs Booth said a television company had been filming her for a number of months and a new TV show is being planned.
If she could go back in time, would she do anything different?
Yes, she says: avoid borrowing from the banks.
“It was something we only started to do in the last few years. Not borrowing money would have meant we could still grow, but at a slower rate.
“We began borrowing about eight years ago when the banks were pushing money at us.
“Then Lehman Brothers fell off the cliff and they wanted it all back again.
“It’s not just us. There are good businesses throughout the country which are facing difficulties and the government isn’t helping them.”
Mrs Booth said it was possible she may lose her 50-acre home near Corwen if the businesses she has now lost control of are not sold on for enough money.
“It is something we will have to wait and see,” she said. “I love it here.
“We came to live in North Wales because it is so beautiful. I have travelled the world and there is nowhere better.
“We have been here for around 25 years, it is wonderful. I have even dug drainage ditches myself.”
Earlier this year Mrs Booth was a front runner to take the helm at Wrexham FC, but in the end a deal couldn’t be struck.
She said she wished the club well for the future and stressed The Racecourse stadium was an important facility for North Wales.
And she believes Glyndwr University taking ownership of the ground and Colliers Park training centre could prove to be an excellent solution.
“I hope the club’s fortunes can improve,” she said. “My message to Wrexham FC is good luck and all the very best.”
'My lowest point'
MRS Booth described the death of her dog during the crisis as ‘my lowest point’.
The beloved pet, a rescued Chow Chow called Yogi Bear, was deaf and blind and had a history of breathing problems.
He died two weeks ago, aged 12, from a heart attack.
Mrs Booth said: “We had him for four years and he went with me everywhere.
“Even after everything that had happened I can honestly say when he died that was my lowest point.
“I cancelled everything planned for that day and just stayed with him and my other rescue dog, Sandy.
“Then later in the day he was buried at home.”
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