Foul-mouthed celebrity television chef Gordon Ramsay has abruptly pulled out of being the star guest at two New Zealand charity dinners - and the events company behind them is threatening legal action.
Ramsay was due to speak at charity dinners in Wellington and Auckland on October 26 and 28 for schoolgirl Matisse Reid who suffers chronic intestinal obstruction and has been fed her whole life from an intravenous drip.
Duco Events had sold 2000 seats to the events and hoped to raise $100,000 for Matisse. Duco director David Higgins was told by Ramsay's lawyers on Tuesday - just a week before the first dinner - that he was pulling out due to matters beyond his control. There was no offer of a further postponement.
Mr Higgins told the Herald last night the news was "devastating". He spent the next day trying to get Ramsay to fulfil his obligations by speaking to his agent and lawyers but was told Ramsay could not attend. "We'd like to apologise to his New Zealand fans, despite the fact [the cancellation] is out of our control."
Mr Higgins was last night breaking the bad news to sponsors and other stake-holders after "exhausting all options" to try and hold the events. He said anyone who purchased tickets would get a full refund. Staff had worked on the Ramsay events for almost a year and they planned to try and recover the costs. "We intend to take legal action."
He was in "disbelief" at Ramsay's actions, and said he had behaved in a "selfish" manner.
Ramsay was paid a six-figure appearance fee in advance. This week's cancellation is the second time British-based Ramsay has pulled out of the dinners. They were scheduled for June but he said he was unable to come after his mother suffered a heart attack. Mr Higgins said Ramsay had offered to make a donation for Matisse's charity "Chance to Eat Trust".
The idea for Ramsay to come to New Zealand came from his London agent.