Berry loan for Spurs shares is questioned

Click to follow
The Independent Online
TONY BERRY, the former chairman of Blue Arrow who is facing a 15-year boardroom ban, borrowed pounds 350,000 from Peter de Savary within days of the controversial deal in which Blue Arrow lent Mr de Savary pounds 25m for an interest in his Canvey Island property project.

According to the report on Blue Arrow published by the Department of Trade and Industry last week, Mr Berry needed cash urgently to repay money to Blue Arrow that had been used to buy shares in Tottenham Hotspur.

Mr Berry, whom the DTI is now seeking to ban from holding company directorships, is a director of Spurs and a big shareholder in the club.

The report is highly critical of Mr Berry's conduct in going ahead with the pounds 25m transaction without board approval and for not informing the board of deals in which he had actual or possible conflicts of interest.

In October 1988, Mr Berry had agreed to buy a block of 400,000 Spurs shares for more than pounds 600,000. According to the DTI report, Mr Berry was under financial pressure and looking for for help in financing the deal. He finally bought the shares on 2 December 1988 with a cheque for pounds 345,000 drawn on Blue Arrow.

A further pounds 275,000 was lent by Amber Day, partly owned by Blue Arrow, whose chairman, Phillip Green, resigned last week.

Five months earlier, Blue Arrow had lent Mr Green pounds 300,000 to buy shares in Amber Day.

The Canvey Island deal was finally signed by Mr de Savary and a Blue Arrow representative on 7 December.

On 14 December, Mr Berry sought Mr de Savary's financial help over the Spurs deal, although it is not clear whether the two men had discussed the matter before.

Mr de Savary agreed to lend Mr Berry the pounds 350,000 he needed, and the money was transferred on 19 December. Chainrock, the de Savary company involved in the Canvey deal, received the pounds 25m loan a few days later.

The DTI inspectors, who were 'concerned as to the proximity of this financing arrangement to the Canvey agreement', asked Mr Berry about the wisdom of asking Mr de Savary 'for a personal loan at the time the Canvey deal was going through'.

Mr Berry said: 'It did not even occur to me that there was anything untoward in that. There was nothing untoward in the Canvey deal, and there was nothing untoward in this deal.'

The DTI inspectors, who have no criticisms of Mr de Savary over the Canvey transaction, found 'nothing improper about the personal financing arrangement between Mr Berry and Mr de Savary, which was first raised at a time when Blue Arrow was legally committed to the Canvey transaction'.

But they conclude that it was 'inappropriate' for Mr Berry to have sought help from Mr de Savary 'at a time when Blue Arrow had still to complete the Canvey transaction'.

Mr Berry repaid the Amber Day loan in January 1989, after losing his executive role at Blue Arrow. He repaid Mr de Savary in July 1989, after leaving the company. Mr Green repaid his loan to Blue Arrow in August 1989.

(Photograph omitted)