Maxwell charges hang over Oyston adviser

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The Independent Online
MICHAEL STONEY, who has been charged with fraud offences related to his time as a lieutenant in Robert Maxwell's empire, has been keeping himself occupied while he awaits trial by working for another socialist media tycoon, Owen Oyston.

The former Maxwell managing director (finance) has been working as a consultant at Oyston Publications, Mr Oyston's publishing group based in Preston, Lancashire.

Employees at the firm, which publishes journals such as Cheshire Life and Lancashire Life, have reported a marked improvement in the speed and efficiency of the accounting and payment operations in the six months that Mr Stoney has been there.

Mr Stoney was charged in June with conspiring to defraud Bankers Trust of pounds 50m and falsifying documents. He was given bail of pounds 50,000.

At the magistrate's hearing, he gave his address as Bartle, Lancashire, where he now appears to have a new home, although until quite recently he was living in Dulwich, south London.

A leading publisher who has close contacts with Mr Oyston said he was aware of Mr Stoney's employment. 'I found it pretty funny,' he said.

Attempts to contact Mr Stoney at the Preston offices met with an unfriendly reception. A colleague said he was 'not in', and when asked to take a message, she said she could not help and slammed the phone down.

Mr Oyston's office said it could not comment as he was away on business and was unlikely to be in contact.

Mr Oyston bought many of his media interests from Robert Maxwell shortly before the publisher's death in November 1991. Maxwell Business Communications, then a subsidiary of Maxwell Communication Corporation, sold Mr Oyston a portfolio of West Country titles, many of which have since been closed.

In the deal, MBC took a 10 per cent stake in Oyston Publications. The stake was sold to Brian Gilbert, the former director of MCC, who bought a portfolio of titles from the administrators of MCC last year. However, the shares have yet to be formally transferred to Mr Gilbert's business, Wilmington Publishing, which employs another former Maxwell lieutenant, Basil Brookes, as its finance director.

Oyston Publications has made a loss in each of the last four years reported at Companies House. The most recent figures show a loss of pounds 440,000 in the year to 31 December 1991, after losses of pounds 833,000, pounds 1.43m and pounds 649,000.

Mr Oyston is best known for building up Trans World Communications, but he was deposed as chairman two years ago.