'Cavalier' Walker is declared bankrupt with debts of pounds 180m

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The Independent Online
GEORGE WALKER yesterday became Britain's second-biggest bankrupt after Kevin Maxwell, owing creditors pounds 180m. In passing judgment in the High Court, Sir Donald Nicholls QC, the Vice-Chancellor, condemned the fallen tycoon's 'cavalier attitude to his responsibilities', writes Tom Stevenson.

Sir Donald said Mr Walker and his wife, Jean, had failed to comply with their side of a voluntary arrangement, approved by creditors last September. He added that he was 'gravely troubled about the genuineness of her and his commitment to (its) spirit and terms'.

The former head of the Brent Walker leisure and property empire will be barred from holding company directorships, will be unable to gain credit of more than pounds 250 and must abandon any hopes he may have had of becoming a member of parliament.

Yesterday's decision marks the first time a voluntary arrangement has been overturned by a court. Such arrangements were sanctioned by the 1986 Insolvency Act as a way of staving off bankruptcy.

Conditions of the arrangement included Mr Walker paying half of any income to his creditors and his wife funding legal actions, including a claim of unfair dismissal against Brent Walker. The court heard that neither condition had been met.

Mr Walker will remain bankrupt for at least three years. A second bankruptcy petition, from the TSB, remains on hold pending the outcome of a possible appeal, which must be lodged within two weeks.

Mr Walker also faces separate criminal proceedings, instigated by the Serious Fraud Office, alleging the theft of pounds 12.5m from Brent Walker and other charges of false accounting. That hearing resumes on 4 June.