"It's unbelievable, this is the worst news to come out of this whole messed up pandemic," Neil was on it. "Does this include Bora Bora? The Big Island, Hawaii? Even Hangzhou at West Lake?"
The team around him instantly bonded with communally raised eyebrows and shrugs that said, 'It's Neil. Cut him some slack.' Not Billy.
"What are you talking about?" he said. Neil moved away from his colleague's computer, looking really shocked.
"This is very serious. What will they do with some of their really fantastic properties?"
"What are you talking about?" Being a gamer, Billy has been somewhat inured to human contact and has a tendency to repeat himself, as if pushing control-V, paste.
"The Four Seasons. Breaking up. Gorgeous hotels."
"What are you talking about?"
"I am just shocked that, even given all of the mayhem around the leisure industry, such a behemoth is looking at Liquidation."
"What are you talking about?" (Control-V.)
Blade intervened. "It's not the Canadian hotel group, it's the name of a company with 42 care homes in Northern Ireland."
"Oh, gentle mother of all that's good and right, thank the Lord. That is SUCH good news."
"On the flip side, Neil, a number of frail, vulnerable people will lose their homes and their security. It's not that good news." Aarati was right and Neil backed up faster than a limping zebra which has accidentally strayed into a lion's den, strewn with five sleeping occupants.
"Oh, I thought, given the pictures of eldery people under the words 'Four Seasons' that they absolutely deserve to treat themselves after all the issues they were suffering in care homes. As well as, you know, wars and stuff."
"By paying £800 a night to have a manicure overlooking the Pacific, while awaiting the arrival of room service?" Billy had arrived, too, in the conversation.
There was nowhere for Neil to go. He hurrumphed a couple of times, mumbled an excuse and fled to the NTI newsroom's kitchen.
We suppose he couldn't have known that Alvarez and Marsal, the Administrators to one of Britain's biggest care home operations, had resumed a delayed break-up of the group by entering talks to sell its business in Northern Ireland, not with flicking through brochures entitled 'Elite - The Maldives 2021' and checking his bank account. Those Bounce Back Loans were weighing heavy with zeros.
A&M, the super-busy restructuring operator, which has been overseeing the bankrupt parent company of Four Seasons Health Care (FSHC) for almost 18 months, has begun a process to sell a portfolio of 42 sites in the country. This section of the group represents almost a quarter of the company's portfolio, there being 184 sites across the United Kingdom. 2,200 jobs are at risk in the country's second largest care home group and have been ever since the collapse of the Four Seasons' parent company in April 2019.
In March the company transferred 52 care homes and specialist units to other operators, following this with another 44 later in the year. In a moment that Marie Antoinette would have been ashamed of a humiliated Neil was heard mumbling from the kitchen something approximating to, "Well, why can't they be relocated to the Four Seasons Safari Lodge in the Serengeti or the Jimbaran Bay in Bali, surely they deserve it ..."