Someone's lying, says Gadget Shop judge

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The Independent Online

The two sides at war over the failed Gadget Shop were told yesterday by the judge presiding over the case that one of them was "lying".

Sir Tom Hunter and Chris Gorman, the Scottish entrepreneurs, have a nervous few weeks ahead of them as Mr Justice Warren mulls his verdict on whether they sought to exclude the minority shareholders in The Gadget Shop from a deal to acquire a rival retailer, Birthdays.

Peter Wilkinson, the Freeserve designer, and Jon Wood, a UBS trader, brought the lawsuit because they were upset at being cut out of a deal cooked up by Gadget Shop employees on Gadget Shop time. Although the gizmo retailer is now in administration and Birthdays turned out to be a poor deal, the duo's lawyers are asking for about £100m in compensation for what might have been.

Given that both sides have painted such contrasting pictures of the events leading up to Birthdays' ultimate acquisition by Sir Tom's private-equity vehicle West Coast Capital in August 2003, Mr Justice Warren said it seemed clear that "one side is lying rather than being mistaken".

There seemed cause for both sides to take heart from yesterday's court proceedings. The judge called the claimant's QC, Michael Crystal, "an alchemist", referring back to a comment made by Sir Tom's defence lawyer about turning "dirt into gold".

Mr Justice Warren also picked up on some comments made during Mr Gorman's testimony last week when he admitted that facts contained in a letter to the Bank of Scotland requesting bank funding for the Birthdays acquisition were "not true".

The case continues and a verdict is expected by 31 January.