In Brief

Gordon Ramsay: 'auto-pen' signature costs chef dear

Legal document Gordon Ramsay claims was forged is valid, rules judge, in dispute with father-in-law

Gordon Ramsay

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay has lost a High Court battle with his estranged father-in-law, Christopher Hutcheson.

Ramsay claimed Hutcheson forged his signature on the lease of a pub without his knowledge – but the court today disagreed.

The eight-day hearing shone light on the "acrimonious relationship" between the two men, says the Daily Telegraph. It also brought into public view the existence of machines called 'autopens'.

Ramsay claimed the machine, which could convincingly forge his signature, had been used without his knowledge by Hutcheson when he was acting as the chef's agent. Hutcheson had used it to make Ramsay a guarantor for the annual rent on an upmarket pub near Regent's Park, London.

The machine was normally used to 'sign' copies of Ramsay's recipe books, the court was told. However, Mr Justice Morgan found that the machine had frequently been used on legal documents on Ramsay's behalf. He listed 42.

The judge concluded it was "entirely implausible" that Ramsay did not know the machine was used for that purpose. He ruled that Hutcheson had been acting within his remit as Ramsay's agent when he 'signed' him up as guarantor.

The judge said: "Mr Ramsay may now regret the transaction in relation to the premises. He may particularly regret his involvement as a guarantor. He may consider that Mr Hutcheson did a bad deal.

"However, on my findings, he is not able to say that Mr Hutcheson exceeded his authority in any respect. I hold that Mr Ramsay, acting through his agent Mr Hutcheson, is bound by the guarantee in the lease of the premises."

Film director Gary Love, who owns the pub – the York & Albany, said Ramsay's allegations were an "absurd" attempt to wriggle out of the commitment.

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