Foyles suspends managers over millions lost in the labyrinths

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The Independent Culture

Foyles, the sprawling London bookshop once famous for its eccentric business practices, has allegedly been stung by some of its own senior staff and suppliers.

Foyles, the sprawling London bookshop once famous for its eccentric business practices, has allegedly been stung by some of its own senior staff and suppliers.

In a case which recalls the chaotic style that made its name, Foyles has suspended two senior managers and begun legal proceedings to recover lost funds in an alleged fraud estimated to run into the millions. Foyles has instructed Mischon de Reya, the legal firm that acted for Diana, Princess of Wales, to pursue large damages claims against 10 people, including at least four members of staff.

Court papers due to be filed with the Queen's Bench division of the High Court next week allege that Foyles has been the victim of a complex fraud involving invoices and commissions dating back 17 years.

The company will ask the court to freeze the assets, accounts and paperwork of several little-known distribution companies in order to allow Foyles' lawyers to assess the full scale of its alleged losses.

Its reputation as the industry's most eccentric store, which until recently used handwritten invoices and separate cashiers for every transaction, sprang from the unique style of its autocratic head, Christina Foyle. After her death two years ago, aged 88, her nephew Christopher Foyle became its chairman and, with his brother Andrew, ordered a series of modernisations to rid the shop of its old-fashioned reputation.

After decades of customers sifting by hand through piles of books, it now uses computers, barcode readers and modern tills, and an internet site should be launched later this year.

A Foyles spokesman confirmed that legal action was being mounted against a number of defendants, but insisted that the alleged frauds had ended some time ago. "The irregular practices were all in the past and have now been stopped. As far as we are concerned, this is all historical and we are confident Foyles' reputation and future are secure."

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