ONE of Wearside’s best-known businessmen has called time on his leisure empire.
Former Wylam Leisure boss Tony Griffiths has declared himself bankrupt in a bid to write off debts totalling more than £5million.
Speaking exclusively to the Echo, the man who hit the headlines when he appeared on come Dine With Me and wife Lorraine presented him with the title Lord Griffiths, said the move would bring an end to two years of financial problems.
The business had been struggling to meets its obligations to its bank in the light of falling interest rates, he said.
“We were paying almost £80,000 a month to the bank, which is not sustainable. When we asked them for help, the answer was just ‘no’.
“But I signed the paper. I can’t blame anybody else. I have to take the blame and try to move on. At the end of the day, I made my own decisions.
“We had a £12million business at one point but when we asked the bank for some support, they totally closed the door on us.
“But I am not blaming anybody. The decision was entirely made by me and I have to take the blame for it.”
Mr Griffiths said he had tried to resolve the business’s problems but had been unable to do so.
“It is just a struggle. I can’t get out of the hole I am in,” he said.
“I have struggled so much over the last few years. Now my wife is behind me all the way and I am really looking forward to building a new business.”
He hoped being so up front about the situation would help other people who were facing problems.
“I have always loved the publicity and I have got to take the rough with the smooth. You can’t bury your head in the sand,” he said.
“There are a lot of people out there who are struggling financially but are scared to talk about it, scared to admit it.
“If somebody as high-profile as me can come out and do it, it is not a source of shame.
“I am just looking forward to the future, to bouncing back, starting again.”
The company’s former venues, including the Queen Vic in Roker and Paddywacks in the city centre, are still in administration.