Hotel contractor says Kevin Carlin treated debt as 'sport'

by Kim Bowden - May 14, 2024

A contractor involved in design work for Queenstown's "six star" Carlin Hotel says he had to battle through the courts to obtain money owing to them from then hotel owner and developer Kevin Carlin.

The small business owner says Mr Carlin ran up debts with him of close to $100,000 - even before the hotel started receiving guests.

The Carlin Hotel opened in 2022 at a reported cost of $30 million, and the Christchurch-based contractor says he became involved in its construction in 2019.

For most of the contract, invoices were paid on time and without question, but issues arose towards the end, around mid-2021, he says.

"He (Mr Carlin) refused to pay our last two invoices and some variation works.

"It ended up being close to $100,000, all told, that he owed me. In my business at the time, my turnover for the year was $600,000."

It was a "significant chunk" of his annual revenue, he says, plus the legal costs were "pretty much as much as they owed me again".

"On top of that the legal fight required me to deal with multiple affidavits from multiple people, which probably took up 20 or 30 percent of my time in the 18 months I was fighting the was like a double-whammy."

Mr Carlin died at the hotel suddenly in December, and two companies behind the accommodation have since been placed in the hands of receivers.

The first receivers' reports made public last week reveal more than $45 million of debt and reference "significant trading losses and cashflow constraints" since the hotel's opening.

Now news of Mr Carlin's death, and the financial problems of his left-behind business, have reopened old wounds.

The contractor says his case was heard through the Building Disputes Tribunal, under the Construction Contracts Act.

It ruled in his favour, and Mr Carlin was made to pay his outstanding bills, but it barely covered the cost of him putting up a fight.

He says at the time Mr Carlin's actions made it feel as if he was being toyed with.

"He treated it like a sport. 

"He was making claims about our designs being incomplete and not complying with requirements and lots of other things, which was all refuted by my legal team...and the adjudicator found totally in my favour on every point."

It is his view Mr Carlin used the arguments as a "delaying tactic" and didn't pay the bills because "he didn't want to".

"We had to fight tooth and nail to get paid...He was a tyrant, really, to deal with."

In March, Crux reported on several former employees of Mr Carlin, who claimed of difficult working conditions.

They referenced Mr Carlin's eccentric behaviour and a hands-on management style that could be oppressive and highly unreasonable at times.

One said of Mr Carlin, "He was the sort of person who loved to be angry with everybody - he would go and do an inspection just to be angry".

They spoke of a high staff turnover.

Mr Carlin's cause of death is unconfirmed and being investigated by the coroner.

The hotel, on Queenstown's central Hallenstein Street, continues to accept guests.

Read more: 

Luxury Carlin Hotel $45 million in debt

Carlin Hotel employees claim unpaid wages and unusual death of owner


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