Dowling attacks lawyers

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Shaun Dowling, chairman of Hartstone, launched a stinging attack on the banking and legal professions, after revealing the leathergood and hosiery group's rescue restructuring cost pounds 16m.

The complex restructuring, begun in 1993, involved issuing preference shares to repay debt owed to 14 banks. The group's shares slumped from 231p in 1993 to the current 9.5p.

Mr Dowling said that he had tried to lobby the Conservative government to change the law so that institutions who fund a company's recovery would have financial protection should the company fold. "The whole restructuring would have taken half the time if we had institutional support at the beginning. It suits the legal and banking world to keep this system going."

The tirade came after Mr Dowling revealed a 40 per cent rise in underlying operating profits for the year to March of pounds 5.6m. Hartstone's net debt at pounds 18.1m compares with pounds 140m three years ago.

Mr Dowling, who plans to publish a guide book for directors running companies in trouble, said that now the restructuring was complete he felt able to speak out. He said that though the UK was still "sticky", the main US and Spanish markets were "doing well".