Former director says Walker wrong to give personal guarantees

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GEORGE WALKER was criticised yesterday for using his personal wealth to guarantee loans used to fund Brent Walker's acquisitions.

Former colleague John Lewis said he disapproved of the move brought about by pressure from the banks. The solicitor, a former non-executive director of Brent Walker, said he objected to the arrangement 'both on the basis of the company's interest and for his own'.

Mr Lewis, who was the final witness at the Southwark Crown Court trial, was giving evidence on behalf of Mr Walker, the former chairman and chief executive of the property to leisure company.

Mr Colin Nicholls QC, defending, asked: 'Were you aware of the fact that Mr Walker was in the habit of putting personal funds into the company in order to support it?'

'Yes,' replied Mr Lewis, who is also chairman of two other concerns. 'Whenever I learnt of it I objected, to George.'

He explained that he did not think it right for a shareholder to be putting his own resources up to guarantee a business proposition that 'could either stand up or it could not'.

He added that if banks called on Mr Walker to pay his personal guarantee it would be most embarrassing for Brent Walker 'vis-a-vis' its chief executive.

But he said Mr Walker was putting everything into the expanding group. 'I thought he was being silly - I told him that many times,' Mr Lewis said.

Mr Lewis conceded that he had been present at meetings with bankers when they asked for Mr Walker's personal guarantee. 'I think they gained enormous reassurance from it.'

Mr Nicholls asked what importance the banks had placed on Brent Walker profits before making loans. 'Unlike today, very little. They very much wanted to lend money,' Mr Lewis said.

Mr Walker and Wilfred Aquilina, former Brent Walker finance director, jointly deny conspiracy to falsify accounts, two offences of false accounting, and one charge of theft. Mr Walker also denies three charges of theft, while Mr Aquilina also denies another charge of false accounting.