Creditors warn Goldberg: go bankrupt or else

MARK Goldberg, the tycoon who lost a pounds 25m fortune in an ill-fated purchase of Crystal Palace football club, has been offered a stark choice by his creditors - go bankrupt or face criminal proceedings, writes Jason Nisse.

The businessman, who made his fortune from computer recruitment, has until 6 December to decide. That is the scheduled date of a High Court hearing at which creditors including Peter Browne, Mr Goldberg's former business partner, and Ron Noades, who sold Crystal Palace to Mr Goldberg, will attempt to have the voluntary arrangement (IVA), which Mr Goldberg agreed with his creditors to avoid bankruptcy, ruled out of order.

The main basis of the challenge is an alleged debt of pounds 7.7m, which Mr Goldberg said he owes to Terry Venables, the former England football coach who briefly managed Crystal Palace. Other creditors claim that Mr Venables is owed no more than pounds 1m. Last month a High Court judge, Mr Justice Jacob, demanded that Mr Venables swear an affidavit detailing the basis of his pounds 7.7m claim. Mr Venables has yet to do this.

Duncan Wiggetts of Herbert Smith, the solicitors representing Mr Browne, said that the other creditors do not want to go to the expense of another hearing and want Mr Goldberg to agree to being made bankrupt on their terms.

And the creditors also have an ace up their sleeve. In a court ruling last month in a case between Mr Browne and Mr Goldberg, Mr Justice Jacob accused Mr Goldberg of lying under oath.

This could lead to a charge of perjury, but neither the judge nor Mr Browne has yet to pass the matter on to the police.

"Mr Browne has not yet made a decision whether to make a complaint," said Mr Wiggetts. "I suspect his feelings will be influenced by Mr Goldberg's reaction to the latest application before the court."

Mr Goldberg's solicitor, Tim Clark of Saunders & Co, described Mr Browne's threats as "a bullying tactic" and said that the decision to prosecute was up to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Mr Goldberg is also considering applying for legal aid so that he can fight his creditors. Mr Clark said that the legal aid forms had been filled in, though not yet sent to the Legal Aid Board.

However, as Mr Goldberg has assets of pounds 5m frozen by an earlier court order, he is unlikely to win legal aid.