The boss of energy firm Ovo is lavishing millions of pounds on a luxury makeover of his exclusive London private members’ club, while his customers battle soaring bills.
Business mogul Stephen Fitzpatrick is planning a glitzy refurbishment for the Kensington Roof Gardens, a party venue once owned by Sir Richard Branson.
The club closed down five years ago. But the wealthy entrepreneur now wants to restore the gardens to ‘their former glory’, with plans to cater for a string of A-list celebrities.
A presentation to the local council, seen by The Mail on Sunday, reveals that Fitzpatrick hopes to attract guests such as Ridley Scott, Grayson Perry and Eric Clapton to the club.
His partner in the venture is Melinda Stevens, the former editor of upmarket magazine Conde Nast Traveler, who has been brought in as creative director.
Niche: Stephen Fitzpatrick wants to reopen Kensington Roof Gardens, above left, which had their own flamingos
But his project to create a chi-chi venue for London’s social set jars with the hardships suffered by many of his customers who are struggling to keep their lights and heating on in the energy crisis. Plans for parties going on until 3am have also sparked outrage among nearby residents, who have fired a barrage of complaints to the local council.
One expressed fears that late-night drunkenness could result ‘in a scourge on the neighbourhood’. Others objected to possible noise and the prospect of guests peering into their properties from the vantage point of the roof gardens.
There are also concerns from politicians and campaigners who suggest Fitzpatrick should focus instead on the soaring bills faced by Ovo customers.
Labour’s Dame Angela Eagle, who sits on the Treasury select committee, said: ‘We are in the middle of an energy crisis and households are really struggling.
‘They want a supplier run by someone who is 100 per cent focused on the job and not other unconnected businesses.
‘We need to ensure that people like him are made much more accountable for the millions of people who rely on what is an essential service.’
Eagle suggested the introduction of a ‘fit and proper persons’ test to assess the credibility of founders running energy firms.
Simon Francis, of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, said: ‘There are so many people struggling with high energy prices. Are these the sort of people we want controlling such an essential service that millions of people rely on?’
The history of the roof garden dates back to the 1930s.
Once famously home to a flock of pink flamingos, the Grade II listed site was an oasis of greenery 100ft above the streets of West London.
It was one of the capital’s most popular nightspots during Branson’s 37-year custodianship.
A-list parties attracted celebrities such as Kate Moss, Madonna and Diana, Princess of Wales.
Fitzpatrick wants to re-establish an opulent garden at the top of the building and to repair its ‘sun pavilion’ which offers stunning views to the south.
He also wants to attract visiting chefs from around the world to deliver food of the ‘highest standard’ in four new restaurants and to host matchmaking dinners for the capital’s wealthy lonely-heart singletons.
The document says employees will be encouraged to travel by bicycle or public transport, although some members are expected to arrive by chauffeur-driven car.
Belfast-born Fitzpatrick says he wants it to be the ‘antithesis of an ostentatious Mayfair private members’ club’.
He launched Ovo Energy in 2009 with a £350,000 kitty. It now has 4.5 million customers.
The 45-year-old also has a flying taxi business, Vertical Aerospace.
In 2015, he bought a Formula 1 team although the venture collapsed just two years later.
He owns Kensington Roof Gardens, which he purchased three years ago, through Imagination Industries, which is also the parent company of Ovo.
Filings on Companies House show that Imagination Industries has handed Kensington Roof Gardens £4.2 million in loans since 2020.
It is believed that the cash is being used to assemble a top-level team of designers and architects. Last year, Ovo reported a £367 million profit, up from a £201 million loss the year before.
Fitzpatrick’s finances have sparked considerable controversy in recent years.
In October, the MoS revealed that Fitzpatrick’s parent company Imagination paid out £27 million in loans to directors.
There is no suggestion the loans were unlawful or breached any financial rules, but the amount is unusual.
Prior to that, Fitzpatrick was grilled by MPs over £40 million worth of inter-company loans and payments, which he said he did not recognise.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that the UK Government had handed him a taxpayer-backed grant worth £14 million to help finance Vertical Aerospace, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
Three months ago, it emerged that Boost Energy, an offshoot of Ovo, was inundated with complaints after leaving customers without hot water or heating. Boost Energy blamed issues on high demand
Fitzpatrick declined to comment.
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