Business

Penniless to prosperous - Lawrence Kenwright

Liverpool developer Lawrence Kenwright was forced to start again from scratch after suffering during the property crash. Pictured outside the site of his George Best Hotel development in Belfast city centre. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Gareth McKeown

LEFT penniless and forced to re-build his business from the ground up, Lawrence Kenwright suffered more than most from the property crash of 2007.

An admittedly young and naive businessman, he invested significantly in retail only to lose it all and be faced with the unenviable fight or flight response. He chose the former.

“At a very young age I had 32 retail shops and 40 to 50 staff and factories in Sri Lanka," he told the Irish News.

"I think money came to me too easily and I don't think I respected it. I went into property believing that I couldn't go wrong and not truly understanding it and went on holiday a lot of the time. Then it crashed."

After going to bed for three months the developer returned with a new-found desire to recoup what he lost and learn from his mistakes. That journey took him down the unexpected route of hotel development and he has not looked back.

"It was not a light bulb moment," he explained.

"It was a desire to get back what I lost from the liquidator. So I bought all the apartments back after two years and then came up with the brand Signature Living. I had a 2,200 sq ft rented apartment that I didn't know what to do with so decided to put 15 beds in it. That was sold out for six months in advance every weekend."

"Then I built two more 16 bed apartments and they were sold out for six to nine months in advance and then I built a 12, 18 and a 30 bed and they were sold out for over a year in advance."

The developer has turned that one Liverpool apartment into 2,068 beds in his native city and by using a strong social media presence and funded by private investors, many from the far east, Lawrence Kenwright is now the head of one of the fastest growing hotel development companies in the UK, with projects currently in Belfast, Manchester, Preston, Cardiff and Glasgow.

He also plans to bring his four-hotel city model to Newcastle in the near future and has a bid in for a hotel in Marbella, Spain.

"I don't have a holiday home abroad, I don't have a boat, I don't have any of that crap. I know lot's of people who do that, get a little bit of money and are then going away early on Friday, getting back on Tuesday. I'm working constantly and I don't stop until I finish the job."

Ten years on from his lowest ebb the Liverpool developer will not make the same mistakes again.

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