Target 8 Investigation: Tiger Hotel Owner Has Rocky Entrepreneurial Past
COLUMBIA - In September, KOMU 8 News broke the story of possible price gouging at the Tiger Hotel. Customers told us the hotel was suddenly charging double for rooms they booked months in advance. After the investigation aired, the state attorney general and Senator Kurt Schaefer got involved and the hotel began refunding customers.
KOMU 8 News started looking deeper into this story and found out Tiger Hotel owner Glyn Laverick experienced mixed results with projects in other cities including Marshall, Missouri and Toronto and Oshawa, Canada.
In 2003, Laverick and Marshall resident David Riley had high hopes for the tiny town. The pair began construction on an outdoor music venue at the Saline County Fairgrounds.
Laverick and Riley formed a business, Full Circle Leisure, LLC, in November 2003 and began contracting local businesses for everything from signage to construction to electricity.
And in 2004, the pair's labor came to fruition for the grand opening of the "Crossroads Amphitheater."
City Administrator Connie Latimer was Marshall's Mayor at the time and said big crowds for a couple of big-name bands brought big business for Marshall.
"It was unlike anything we were accustomed to. Unlike anything we've ever had here," Latimer said.
But suddenly the fun came to a halt.
Laverick booked Aretha Franklin and Clint Black for two concerts at the outdoor amphitheater. But Full Circle Leisure canceled the highly-touted shows and refused to issue refunds to ticket holders.
"They were canceled largely because there wasn't enough support from ticket holders and it just wasn't the density it was hoped for," Laverick said in an exclusive sit-down interview with KOMU 8 News.
Shorty thereafter, Laverick sold his interest in the company--just months before it went belly-up. Riley was left with the debt, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in October 2004, only 11 months after officially registering the company.
"I'd done all I could and booked all the shows I could. There was nothing else for me to do," he said.
Laverick said his work in Marshall was done but Riley's was just beginning.
At least three businesses filed suit against Full Circle Leisure, while disgruntled ticket holders filed 81 formal complaints to the Missouri Attorney General's office.
One complaint stated the consumer was told "Refunds would be issued in 3 to 4 weeks," but the company's phone was soon disconnected.
Even the mayor said she was never reimbursed for $1,200 in tickets.
"There was a lot of businesses that got beat out of a lot of money and that's not something that we can afford here," she said.
KOMU 8 News read through 51 pages of bankruptcy claims and found Full Circle Leisure owed Bowman Electric $40,551.46, Marshall Construction $9,481.96 and in advertising alone, it was in debt nearly $75,000 to local papers and radio stations. All told, Full Circle Leisure was more than $830,000 in debt.
And Laverick was no longer in town. Instead, he was one thousand miles away and across the border in Toronto, Canada, the site of his next big project.
Laverick began renovating an 85-year-old Toronto music hall in 2005. He booked a number of shows before his landlord evicted him for owing more than $44,000 in unpaid rent.
"He wanted to raise the rent by 70% at the end of our five year lease. Really that's a business decision and we left," Laverick said. "That was just the right time to go."
Laverick started a third project in nearby Oshawa, Ontario where he purchased the Regent Theater. But the venue staged only a few shows before Laverick sold it at a profit. He says it's still holding shows to this day.
"We've had some great successes, obviously there are some mistakes along the way but every year one of those things is a learning step for us and something we can put to use in the future," he said.
In 2011, Laverick created Columbia Hospitality Management, LLC in order to buy the Tiger Hotel from its previous owners.
"We had 73,000 square feet of space that was literally abandoned for years prior to us coming to town," Laverick said.
KOMU 8 News spoke with Robert Powell, an ex-employee of the Tiger Hotel. His advice to Laverick: "Just get out of Columbia. I don't want them doing business where my kids live," said Powell.
In October 2011, Laverick opened an upscale bar, the V2 Nightclub, in the hotel and hired Powell as doorman.
Three months later, Powell said Laverick promoted him to V2 manager with a $35,000 salary. But in May, hotel management closed V2 and fired Powell.
"I couldn't support my family for over two months," he said.
Powell said Laverick still owes him $9,000 in back wages. So he filed suit against Laverick and Columbia Hospitality Management. But because Powell's salary was never negotiated in ink, Powell said the court ruled in favor of the Tiger Hotel.
But Laverick denied promoting Powell to manager.
"Clearly the judge found that Robert Powell didn't have any validity to his claim and that we indeed owe him nothing," Laverick said.
Powell said if he saw Laverick today, he wouldn't ask why or even lash out in anger. Instead, he'd offer this advice:
"Find another business, man. Find another gig. Because everything you do, you fail. You haven't completed one gig in the United States or in Canada," he said.
Laverick said that's not true.
"At the end of the day, you only have to look at the past projects I've done and they are finished," Laverick said. "The Regent Theater in Oshawa is functioning today, it's doing shows every single day. It's got civic events going on there and again, I take great pride in the fact it is functioning and it's functioning because of me so it is a finished project.
"The Danforth Music Hall is the same thing. It was leased to somebody else but only on the strength of the renovations I did and only on the fact I turned it around and made it a concert venue again, which it hadn't been for over a decade," Laverick said.