The Entertainer founder Gary Grant has reacted with anger and disbelief after lawyers acting on behalf of Westfield shopping centres demanded outstanding rent as his stores shut for the second lockdown.

Grant, executive chair of the toy retailer he founded in 1981 and built into a 200-store business, told Retail Week that the intimidating letters, regarding his shops in Westfield Stratford City and Westfield London, came after the property owners ignored his attempts to engage with them over several months.

Law firm DAC Beachcroft, acting on behalf of Commerz Real Investmentgesellschaft at Westfield London and nominees at Stratford City, withdrew the letters yesterday – the same day Grant received them – after the retailer forwarded them to his local MP for Chesham and Amersham, Cheryl Gillan.

Grant said: “As far as I’m concerned, it’s all about the intention. To get that on the first day of the second lockdown in the second busiest month for a toy retailer…

“I want to reach a settlement. Since the first lockdown we’ve engaged with all our landlords – they’re stakeholders. If we’re closed, why would a landlord think I’ve got an infinite bank balance and they wouldn’t need to share the pain?”

Grant said he had contacted Westfield in May and June without a response before a conference call was eventually arranged in July. There was no follow-up afterwards and he made contact again in October. 

Even on a call just days ago about the renewal of the Stratford lease, there was no mention of the issue so the final demand was out of the blue.

Grant did not want to reveal how much is owed but said it was probably around half the rent.

No comment was available from Westfield.