Berry in loan battle

Ex-Blue Arrow chairman faces controversy over borrowing by Saxilby
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The Independent Online
Tony Berry, the former chairman of Blue Arrow, is at the centre of a fresh controversy less than three months after winning a disqualification reprieve from the Department of Trade and Industry.

One of Mr Berry's private companies, Saxilby, is being pursued for a £385,000 loan it owes to Landhurst Leasing, the collapsed finance company that is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office.

Arthur Andersen, the receiver to Landhurst Leasing, has appointed a receiver to Saxilby in the hope of recovering money that Landhurst lent to Saxilby to finance a purchase of property.

Mr Berry is currently deputy chairman of Tottenham Hotspur, and is now a close ally of Alan Sugar, the club's chairman.

In 1991, while he was involved in an ultimately unsuccessful consortium attempt to win control of Tottenham Hotspur, Mr Berry borrowed around £500,000 from Landhurst Leasing through Saxilby in order to finance the purchase of property close to the football club'sground.

At the time Tottenham's plans for the expansion of its stadium looked as if they might result in the purchase of a significant amount of land around the existing stadium to make room for ground redevelopment.

As security for the money lent to Saxilby, Landhurst held a fixed charge on the land and properties close to the stadium. The charge was filed at Companies House in March 1991.

Shortly before the collapse of the finance company, Mr Berry repaid part of his loan and the fixed charge over the land and properties was lifted.

A record of the lifting of the charge as agreed with the former management of Landhurst Leasing is filed at Companies House, dated 17 August 1992. The "memorandum of satisfaction" confirming the release of the charge was signed by Mr Berry and witnessed by Douglas Alexiou, another Tottenham director. The land and properties, including freehold land at 31 Paxton Road, and land at the rear of several properties on Tottenham High Road, are now registered as being owned by Saxilby Ltd. This is a d irectors'retirement benefit plan, whose trustees include Mr Berry and his wife.

Timothy Harris and Nigel Vooght of Coopers & Lybrand, the joint administrative receivers of Saxilby, will be examining all the transactions that took place before Landhurst went into receivership to see whether Landhurst's creditors have a claim on the land and properties or against any of Mr Berry's other assets. If the receivers find fault with the way in which the charge was lifted they would have the powers to apply to the courts to reverse it and effectively re-instate their charge over the land.

Mr Berry now runs an employment services company called Recruit, which was bought from Wembley, owners of the national sports stadium, with financial backing from Michael Ashcroft. Mr Berry owns his shares in Recruit through Tony Berry Inc, a company registered in Belize.

In October last year the Department of Trade and Industry abandoned its attempt to disqualify Mr Berry as a company director. It said that it had "decided not to continue" with the disqualification proceedings that were started in 1992. These proceedingsfollowed the publication of a hard-hitting DTI report into the affairs of Blue Arrow, which covered a controversial £25m loan made by Blue Arrow to the property entrepreneur Peter de Savary.

In a recent interview with the Independent on Sunday, Mr Berry, who was uncontactable this weekend, described how the DTI's five-year investigation into Blue Arrow had affected him. "It's caused untold pain and suffering. You're really ostracised. It's as if you're an outcast . . . you feel you can't hold your head up amongst City institutions."