ONE of Hampshire’s most historic businesses has become the latest victim of the recession.

Southampton’s Dolphin Hotel has collapsed into administration.

Home at various times to luminaries such as Jane Austen and Orson Welles, as well as a reputed six ghosts, the long-standing High Street landmark is today welcoming administrators KPMG.

The Grade II listed building, which has 48 staff and sections dating back to 1250 and includes the Bleu restaurant and the Dolphin Tap bar, is still trading while administrators try to organise a sale of the business, which has a turnover of £1.5m a year.

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The 12 businesses set up in the hotel’s Dolphin Lane are unaffected.

Owner Bob Musker said the problems were triggered by the collapse of a deal to build 87 apartments on the hotel car park.

He said: “We sold the option to build them but when it came due the people who’d bought it didn’t complete. They had an option to walk away. They did and that left us short of revenue.

“The hotel has been going well but without that money coming in that was the end of it.

“We have gone into administration to protect us and protect our staff and the business going forward. It is not that bad. It is a sad day but in business the reality is that you have to do it to protect the business going forward.”

A statement from KPMG said: “The hotel has encountered difficulties due the effects of the economic downturn, which have impacted the business. In addition, a planned development of the hotel’s car park has not gone ahead which would have released funds to the business.

“We will now be working closely with the management of the hotel to try to secure a buyer for the business as a going concern. In the meantime it is business as usual for the hotel, bar and restaurant.”