Patrick McKillen loses battle with Barclay brothers over Coroin


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The Independent Online

A property developer has lost a High Court battle with two of the UK's best-known businessmen.

Patrick McKillen, who comes from Belfast but is based in Dublin, was fighting Sir David Barclay and his twin Sir Frederick over control of a £1 billion company which owns three of London's most famous hotels.

A judge in London today ruled against Mr McKillen, following a trial spanning more than two months.

All three men were investors in Coroin - the company which owns and manages Claridge's, the Connaught and the Berkeley hotels.

Mr McKillen claimed that “company affairs” were conducted in a “manner unfairly prejudicial to his interests”.

The Barclay brothers disputed Mr McKillen's claims and said his allegations were designed to “tarnish” their reputations and “embarrass” them.

In a lengthy written ruling, Mr Justice David Richards announced that two sets of proceedings brought by Mr McKillen “fail and will be dismissed”.

In a statement issued on their behalf, the Barclays welcomed the ruling, which was described as a “comprehensive victory” for them.

Richard Faber, speaking on behalf of the Barclay interests, said: “We are delighted that today's judgment has completely vindicated the Barclay interests' position and brought to an end this unnecessary and distracting dispute.

”After 30 days in court the judge has looked in detail at every aspect of Mr McKillen's case, and has found it to be without any merit.

“It should never have been necessary for the Barclay interests to defend these baseless proceedings, which we always believed were an attempt by Mr McKillen to tarnish the Barclay interests' reputation in the misconceived hope that they would then sell out to him.

”The High Court has now confirmed what we always knew to be the case: that the Barclay family and its interests have always behaved entirely lawfully and properly in their business dealings.“

A statement issued later on behalf of Mr McKillen said he ”firmly believes in his claim and is obviously considering an appeal“.

In his introduction to the case in a 158-page judgment Mr Justice Richards said that at the “heart of this case lies a battle for control” of three of London's “leading hotels”.

He added: “The contenders for control are Patrick McKillen and Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay. Mr McKillen is the last man standing of a consortium of investors who purchased the hotels in 2004.

”He has a 36.2  per cent shareholding in Coroin Limited (the company) which heads the group of companies owning the hotels.

“The Barclay brothers have extensive and diversified business interests, including hotels and in particular the Ritz Hotel in London.

”In January 2011, a company controlled by them acquired indirectly a 24.78 per cent interest in the company, which has since increased to 28.36 per cent.

“The remaining shares are owned by Derek Quinlan, also a member of the original consortium but now in severe financial difficulties.

”His shares are fully charged to secure debts now held by companies controlled by the Barclay brothers.“

The judge said: ”The Barclay brothers have made no secret of their aim to obtain control of the company.

“There is nothing wrong in this aim, provided that unlawful means or means which are unfairly prejudicial to the interests of other shareholders are not used to achieve it.

”Mr McKillen alleges that the Barclay brothers or companies controlled by them have used unlawful or unfairly prejudicial means, comprising principally breaches of contract by shareholders and breaches of duty by directors of the company appointed by them.“

Those allegations formed the basis of the two sets of proceedings brought by Mr McKillen.

In the first Mr McKillen alleged that the affairs of the company had been conducted in a manner unfairly prejudicial to his interests as a shareholder.

He had sought an order ”that the shares held by companies associated with the Barclay brothers be sold to him“, which the judge said would have given him control of the company.

In the second set of proceedings he sought ”damages in tort for conspiracy to cause loss by unlawful means and for inducing breaches of contract“.

The judge announced that both sets of proceedings failed. There was ”no foundation“, he said, for the damages claim.