Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

The ice cream kiosk, one of five sheds on Hastings Pier which owner Sheikh Abid Gulzar proposes to buy from Lions Hastings Pier, now in liquidation, for £5,000. Photo from December 2018.

Questions raised on pier company’s insolvency

Nearly seven weeks after Lions Hastings Pier was put into liquidation, questions are being asked about the relationship between the company and Sheikh Abid Gulzar, its sole director and the pier owner. Nick Terdre reports.

The liquidator, Laura Anne Walshe of the Keywood Group, has been asked to investigate pier owner Sheikh Abid Gulzar’s credit and inter-company dealings with Lions Hastings Pier. Profit and loss accounts going back to 2018 and bank statements have been requested for her to examine, HOT understands.

She has also been asked to follow this investigation with an oral examination of Gulzar to clarify precisely why, as the sole director, he decided to put the company into voluntary liquidation and why it has become insolvent.

HOT understands that the major blame for LHP’s demise is put on the Covid-19 pandemic, which caused it to be closed down for an extended period.

It is part of the liquidator’s duty to investigate why a company put into liquidation became insolvent and report to the Insolvency Service on the conduct of directors. If the Insolvency Service considers a director to be unfit for the role, they can apply to the court to have them disqualified from acting as a director for a period of years.

Due to a glitch, the updating of LHP’s entry on Companies House was not initially effected but now has been, the liquidator told HOT. The statement of affairs, along with the winding up resolution and notice of the liquidator’s appointment, both dated 3 August, have now been filed.

The statement of affairs lists estimated assets of £5,000, which HOT understands is the sum Gulzar proposes to pay to buy the five sheds he installed on the pier, which have a book value of £11,439.

A new kiosk, the so-called Nutella shed, was recently installed over which Hastings Borough Council is considering enforcement action due to the absence of the requisite permissions.

The ‘Nutella’ shed, newly installed and subject to enforcement enquiries by the council due to lack of necessary permissions (photo: Bernard McGinley).


The statement of affairs lists debts to creditors of £313,203. These include £77,097 awarded last year by an employment tribunal to former pier engineers Daisy Hill and Peter Wheeler; £31,346 to HBC for unpaid business rates; £43,288 to Lloyds Bank for a Bounce-Back Covid loan; a combined £36,880 to energy companies British Gas, EDF, E.On, Haven Power and Opus Energy; and £118,159 to Gulzar himself and his companies Golden AMB and Lions Pier.

It is unclear how the investment by the owner and his companies was spent.

The list of debts do not include two fines of £5,000 which HOT understands were levied on LHP for failing to pay the employment tribunal awards.

Accounts filed by the company indicate that its situation worsened considerably between 31 March 2022 and 21 July last. In this period, not only did overall liabilities increase from £217,412 to £294,750, but assets fell drastically from £72,229 to £11,451.

LHP was due to file its accounts for the year to 31 March 2023, but in the run-up to liquidation was granted permission to extend the accounting period to 21 July. Its situation on 31 March had already worsened since the year-before position, as the employment tribunal award would have been booked by then, and other debts such as business rates and energy bills would have been rising. The liquidator may wish to take a view on whether the company’s financial position justified it continuing to trade at this time.

Another aspect on which the liquidator will hopefully throw some light for creditors is the question of the pier’s rental income. HOT has seen an invoice for the rent due for September 2022 – £12,500 – which was issued by LHP. On the other hand, it was told by Manas Singh, who works for Gulzar, that the tenant’s contract was directly with the owner, in which case the rents would have been expected to go to him.

Whichever is the case, a pertinent question for the liquidator to pursue is why the pier’s income was not made available to meet its liabilities.

Previous liquidations

LHP is by no means the first of Gulzar’s companies which he has placed in voluntary liquidation. Both Chatsworth Hotels Ltd (1991) and Lions Hotels Ltd (2004) were put into voluntary liquidation in 2017 with combined debts of more than £2m. After extensive investigations both were eventually dissolved this year, Lions Hotels in February and Chatsworth Hotels in June.

Gulzar then put his hotel businesses into three other companies, Mansion Lions Hotel Ltd, Albany Lions Hotel Ltd and Boship Lions Farm Hotel Ltd, all set up in 2015 with himself as sole director.  In 2020 he applied at different dates to have all three struck off — this is a procedure for having a company dissolved but which requires all creditors to have been paid.

In all three cases the application was suspended after an objection was received. Accounts and confirmation statements for all three are several years overdue.

Sheikh Abid Gulzar has been approached for comment.


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Posted 18:14 Thursday, Sep 21, 2023 In: Local News


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  1. Christopher Hurrell

    The article is about the liquidation of Gulzar’s LHP operating company. As usual some prefer to distract from the issue in hand and to cast attention on the HPC and FOHP.
    It is clear that the HPC management of the pier was disastrous. We have been waiting for many years for an article on the HPC and the FOHP bids. I believe that Mr Smith was going to write one? I wait to see it.
    What is clear to me is that HPC management of the pier was poor and unviable however the debts they accrued were the results of mismanagement. In contrast debts and liquidation are central to Gulzar’s business practices. He has been using the tactic of running an operating company that accrues debts and is liquidated for many years. The hotels in Eastbourne are an example. Mr Gulzar’s liquidations and failure to pay staff, creditors, the Revenue, councils, utilities are a deliberate part of his business strategey over many years. All this was well known before he was given the pier.

    Comment by Christopher Hurrell — Tuesday, Oct 10, 2023 @ 09:24

  2. A.Pearce

    Bernard McGinley – you’ve totally lost me, a coherent basic statement? Fact – HPC went in to administration owing over 500k. The list of their creditors was published, one of these being HMRC. Fact – They did not adhere to the correct administration process. None of this is allegations it is the truth known by all. Sounds like you are doing what you accuse others of-your famous whataboutery. Bottom line is HPC didn’t pay their bills. The most staff losses from the Pier were due to FOHP’s failure. A £1 bid & no money
    in the bank, hilarious. It is quite clear that your issue is with Mr Gulzar personally not about companies owing money or losing staff . It is however certainly not newsworthy on who Bernard likes or doesn’t like. Anyway I said over & out before & wasn’t planning on wasting any more of my time on Bernard’s opinions. All done now.

    Comment by A.Pearce — Sunday, Oct 8, 2023 @ 14:07

  3. Bernard McGinley

    Pearce: when there’s a coherent basic statement about HPC’s deemed record it will be possible to begin discussing it. In over five years there hasn’t been one. Why not?

    Instead allegations have been made repeatedly as a distraction from the awful record of the present owner of Hastings Pier. The bottom line is that Gulzar doesn’t pay his bills, and doesn’t maintain the Pier. He breaks rules constantly, and has provided job losses.

    Comment by Bernard McGinley — Sunday, Oct 8, 2023 @ 10:00

  4. A Pearce

    Bernard McGinley: I haven’t got a clue what you mean about whataboutery, is that even a word. The question which you never answer is why you write about Mr Gulzar & his debts but didn’t write about HPC’s debts to some of those same creditors. They owed money to HMRC, hadn’t paid their staff’s NI! You should have been a politician. We can go round this a million times, the bottom line is Mr Gulzar owns that Pier whether you like it or not. No amount of any of your biased articles will change that. He owns it & can do what he wants with it without Bernard’s approval. What you have not acknowledged is Covid & the impact that had on hospitality businesses but guess that doesn’t fit your ‘agenda’. The past two years has certainly provided some great entertainment on there over the summers as well as providing many with jobs. Just what Hastings needed from it. That’s what
    matters. Also educate yourself on what the temporary struts there are for as that’s very laughable. Over & out Bernard, no further discussion needed.

    Comment by A Pearce — Saturday, Oct 7, 2023 @ 10:01

  5. Bernard McGinley

    A Pearce: please spare me the sustained whataboutery and diversionary tactics. The Pier is a centrepiece of Hastings, a once-and-future major attraction. Since 2018 it has been a tawdry shambles, in frequent breach of its obligations.

    At the time of the hasty transfer of the Pier in 2018, the administrators Smith & Wiliamson commented:
    ‘The bid . . . was able to best demonstrate the capacity to take the Pier forward. Overall, Mr Gulzar demonstrated the best immediate financial capability as well as the operational capacity and experience, including from running Eastbourne Pier. It is anticipated that significant cash for working capital and investment purposes, amounting to over a million pounds, would be required to make the pier sustainable.’

    ‘Over a million pounds’ was not spent on the Pier by Mr Gulzar, who spent very little — the proverbial few quid. Where did the figure of ‘over a million’ come from? Did Smith & Williamson seek evidence of it? What became of Mr Gulzar’s ‘best immediate financial capability’? Where’s that best demonstrated capacity? Why is he now seeking liquidation of Lions Hastings Pier Ltd?

    Yes I remember the Pier in the 20th century: the free fishing from the sea end, and the history and atmosphere of the Ballroom. Later the Gritti Palace on the near end had a great vibe.

    It doesn’t take many visitors over a few years to make ‘thousands’, many from landlocked areas. What’s the ratio of those ‘enjoying it’ to those not? Or if you ‘can’t talk on behalf of all residents’, how do you speak for visitors?

    Comment by Bernard McGinley — Friday, Oct 6, 2023 @ 11:52

  6. A.Pearce

    Reply to Mr Blair & now Bernard McGinley. First off Mr Blair questions my talking on behalf of Hastings residents. Clearly I can’t talk on behalf of all residents but having been born here, gone through all my schooling & college here,worked here for 30 years plus (many years with my own business & employing Hastings residents) had my children here who now have children I have a very wide circle of friends & associates. The Pier has been the talking point in a fair few conversations over the years. Many of us bought shares. We had spent a many a good night in our youth on there and wanted to be a part of it’s future. That however as we all know was not to be thanks to all at HPC for their mismanagement and greed. I can assure you I have no affiliation to Mr Gulzar but we have been disturbed by what has gone on towards him by some other townspeople since he bought the Pier.A few questions to you both (in truth though not that I am in the slightest bit interested in either of your replies)
    Do you comment like this on all local companies that have financial issues? Not seen it before & there’s certainly been a fair few in our town over the years due to the nature of the beast. All listed in court records. Why do you feel HPC’s actions were acceptable? They owed money to those same companies plus a couple or so small local companies as well. They carried on operating &
    paying themselves big salaries knowing they had no way of paying the bills & then scarpered without going through the correct administration process leaving the charity/ peoples Pier owing over half a million in less than 6 months of operating,
    Do you actually frequent the Pier ie use the restaurant, attend the events? My guess is not as you would have seen over the past couple of years thousands enjoying it. Isn’t this what is about?
    [This comment has been cut to fit the maximum length allowed. Nick Terdre]

    Comment by A.Pearce — Sunday, Oct 1, 2023 @ 22:15

  7. Bernard McGinley

    Zilch interest in Gulzar & his finances, A Pearce? Questionable reasons? Great entertainment? More detail please, and specifics. What a major evasion of the Blair detailed comments on Gulzar’s poor record.

    In May 2019, Gulzar (instead of answering the members’ questions) burbled to the Planning Committee of his athletics record and his proposed Hastings Pier-to-Eastbourne Pier boat service. That has yet to happen, but the paddle steamer Waverley (or any other one) isn’t going to visit Hastings Pier.

    This is the meeting where the Council’s Principal Planner said (re application HS/FA/18/00896) that the 2017 RIBA Stirling Prize-winner’s structures ‘are not considered to contribute to the special architectural or historic interest of the Pier’. This was news to many.

    Since then the maintenance of the Pier has been neglected by its owner, and now there are patchwork struts on the Hastings side of the Pier apron.

    The subject of this discussion is why Lions Hastings Pier is in voluntary liquidation. In over five years, no-one seems to have written an article about the failure of the Pier Charity. Why not if it’s such an obvious scandal? The issue is frequently deployed as whataboutery in defending Gulzar however (or deflecting attention from him).

    Gulzar’s evasiveness has been commented on by the judiciary: ‘Mr Gulzar did not impress us . . . What particularly did not impress us was Mr Gulzarʼs performance under cross-examination. To straightforward questions from Mr Haley clearly admitting of only one answer, Mr Gulzar would do anything, mostly embarking on speeches telling us for the umpteenth time of his business background and achievements, rather than give a straight answer.’

    In 2013 he wouldn’t meet Natural England to discuss their concerns about his serious damage to an SSSI on the Pevensey Levels. For that he was fined £45k and ordered to pay double that in costs.

    Gulzar persistently doesn’t pay his bills (even to HBC) or sometimes even his employees’ NI contributions. That is low. Now he’s in liquidation. His role as benefactor – except to himself – is fictitious.

    Comment by Bernard McGinley — Sunday, Oct 1, 2023 @ 12:14

  8. Mr Blair

    A.P – With the greatest respect your loyal defence of Mr Gulzar is unconvincing. What authority allows you to speak for the opinion of the entire town? Are you basing this on an official survey or as a royal ‘we’. If you think Hastings Pier charity were corrupt how do you at same turn turn blind eye & applause the many dubious business practices of Mr Gulzar ? Should he not abide by the law paying bills & the many court judgements served upon him when he readily has income available to do so? Should he not live up to his own declarations?

    As well as speaking for the entire town you imply you also have insights into future plans for the pier which he is not promoting. As he has not adhered to his promises to the administrators & fulfilled his press statements investing back in the pier – one would assume once the rental income dries up he’ll flog it for profit. Since 2018 there has been no Gulzar masterplan, that’s why after 2 years he let it out. James & Tuffy did a great job as caretakers sadly since priced out by Gulzar demands & this years random team less successful.

    5 years under Gulzar’s ownership it’s been jam tomorrow & jam yesterday -the promises of buildings & boat trips instead we got garden sheds (did Skinners ever get paid for them?) & as for boat trips those plans never materialised onto drawing boards – until there is responsible pier ownership the Waverley & rest will sail on by past Hastings.

    Comment by Mr Blair — Saturday, Sep 30, 2023 @ 20:25

  9. A. Pearce

    Reply to Mr Blair – are you Tony in disguise? HPC stole the money of many Hastings citizens. Took their share money & all the charity money & spent a large proportion of it on their own salaries. Doesn’t get any lower than that. Also left half a million in debt owed to various companies including some local businesses. How come all those involved in HPC avoided being held to account for what they did, should they be directors of other companies! They ruined the community’s ownership of the Pier because of their greed.The townspeople won’t ever forget that. As said the majority of us have absolutely zilch interest in Mr Gulzar & his finances.Only a few hung up on it & that’s for questionable reasons. The Pier has had great entertainment over the summer for the past few years under the leaseholders. Thousands have enjoyed it, townspeople & tourists. Great for the town & its finances. Also you have no idea what he has planned for the future of that Pier!

    Comment by A. Pearce — Saturday, Sep 30, 2023 @ 18:59

  10. Mr Blair

    Gulzar the man who accused the Hastings people of ‘wanting things for free’, something he ‘would not tolerate’. The great businessman who ‘does not need the help of charity’. The rank hypocrisy when he does not pay his utility bills or council tax at his Eastbourne & Hastings properties whilst gaining high rental incomes. Further wasting utility company funds by having them chase him to court for judgements which he then further avoids paying.

    Deeply deprived seaside councils badly need their share of business rates income which he does not pay. He sits on his rental income & adds further strain on council lack of resources & funding having them chase him for the money. In this case Hastings Council will not receive it.

    Who’ll subsidise utility & council debts? The good people of Hastings who scrape a living so they can pay their ever rising bills.

    In 2018 Gulzar declared he wanted the pier to generate money to spend on improvements to the pier. “All the money earned would be spent back here,” he said. Instead he’s pimped out the pier for the past three years with apparently no company record of where that 400k ++ rental income has gone.

    The wealthy can afford good legal advice enabling ‘businessmen’ like Gulzar to manipulate our deeply flawed limited company system & flout company court judgements. Including easy navigation of the murky company liquidator system.

    Comment by Mr Blair — Saturday, Sep 30, 2023 @ 14:09

  11. W. Smith

    Kendal – one of the managers you mention of HPC that mismanaged the charity & Hastings residents money (ie the shares) was that same person that then went on to head FOHP! You say shame that FOHP’s bid was scuppered. Their bid was £1. They wanted all of the debt they had amassed (which was predominantly down to their inflated salaries) written off. Mr Gulzar’s bid was £65k (& in in total paid over £80k) hence why it won.Quite straightforward to see why that bid won & at least some of the creditors received some of the money they were owed. FOHP had no money in the bank to actually run the Pier so no staff would have received payment & in turn the Pier would have shut. Mr Gulzar also having proof that he could run a Pier unlike FOHP/HPC. He has owned Eastbourne Pier for many years & greatly improved it. HPC was meant to be the Pier being run by the community & it spectacularly failed!

    Comment by W. Smith — Friday, Sep 29, 2023 @ 09:07

  12. kendal

    A P – obviously an ally of the destitute multi-millionaire. hilarious. You’d need to ask the manager for HPC how the debt was mismanaged. Seemed like many a typical marriage to me. “At least it’s stayed open…” (only in summer) is like saying “At least the Bibby Stockholm is housing asylum seekers,” without any consideration for potential alternatives. Its like saying Johnson, Cummings and Hancock were the best thing for Covid-19 at the time.

    Comment by kendal — Thursday, Sep 28, 2023 @ 11:52

  13. A Pearce

    Fair & balanced reporting – hilarious. Where was your report on Hastings Pier Charity going into administration owing over half a million? Where did all that charity money & Hastings residents share money go, that’s what the majority of Hastings residents want to know. Just a very small minority of Hastings residents including HOT that seem to have this grievance against the Indian owner of the Pier. At least it’s stayed open with him owning it & is entertaining a large amount of Hastings residents & visitors. Interesting article in The Sussex Express (Hastings Observer) regarding the Waverley boat trips with an unprecedented amount of readers of that article. Thats what’s called satisfying local readers.

    Comment by A Pearce — Wednesday, Sep 27, 2023 @ 09:21

  14. Kendal

    Aren’t WRT and WRH private enterprises?

    It’s a great pity the original bid by FOHP was scuppered a day before the previous liquidator’s deadline, before selling to Gulvar. If they had been given the same consideration, we would have a public pier that is a community hub by now. The amount of community activity, arts and events in Hastings & St Leo is immense and could have easily made the pier a solvent enterprise (even if it was run as a charity). The amount of pro-active social benefit HBC gain from everyday people here, as well as attracting tourism and trade from outside the borough, makes for a compelling argument for future financial support or concessions from the council – as well as practical help with the running (when everyone else would likely be contributing their time, efforts and initiatives mostly for free). Missed boat?

    Comment by Kendal — Monday, Sep 25, 2023 @ 09:57

  15. Bea

    I strongly support the objectors to this liquidation process, and hope the liquidator accepts the tribunal judgment as a debt. The whole thing looks calculated and unethical, and it would be so good if Gulzar could be barred from acting as a company director in the future.

    Comment by Bea — Monday, Sep 25, 2023 @ 09:42

  16. Nick Terdre

    There’s some misunderstanding here. The pier is in the personal ownership of Mr Gulzar and is not going anywhere soon. What is being disposed of is the company he set up to operate the pier and which has acted as a repository for its debts.

    Comment by Nick Terdre — Friday, Sep 22, 2023 @ 16:39

  17. Bryan Fisher

    Hastings Borough Council are broke. So they cannot afford to take on the financial responsibility of the pier. What is needed is independent funding that HBC actively supports. To lose the pier as an attraction would be another nail in the coffin for the Borough, and we have had far too many of those recently.

    Comment by Bryan Fisher — Friday, Sep 22, 2023 @ 10:41

  18. David Young

    Hastings Borough Council should explore taking the pier over and managing it alongside the Whiterock Hotel and Theatre. Preserving the attractions and employment of local people. The pier is a very visible attraction and needs preserving in the Town.

    Comment by David Young — Friday, Sep 22, 2023 @ 08:52

  19. Neil edwards

    All this information has been available to the public for years, I practiced as an accountant for a while before changing careers and Im not surprised that the current auditors and accountants let this happen. Shocking and illegal, how is this even possible?

    Comment by Neil edwards — Friday, Sep 22, 2023 @ 04:40

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