Rubython makes deal on debts

`Sunday Business' editor takes a break to `cool off' after row
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Tom Rubython, founder of the Sunday Business newspaper, has struck a deal with creditors to stave off bankruptcy.

The deal, an individual voluntary arrangement, was reached last Wednesday. It allows part payment of personal debts he puts at up to pounds 70,000 after the paper's troubled launch in April.

It coincided with a blazing row with his new backer, Yorkshire businessman Gordon Brown, over Mr Rubython's hiring of a former boxer as a "minder".

He is now "on holiday" - described unofficially as "a cooling off period" - leaving deputy Anil Bhoyrul as acting editor.

Both Mr Rubython, 40, and Mr Bhoyrul were recently interviewed by the police after a Sunday Business story last month over match-fixing allegations against former Wimbledon striker John Fashanu.

Attorney General Nicholas Lyell will shortly decide whether to bring contempt of court charges over the report.

On 5 December, Chelsea chairman Ken Bates will also bring libel claims in the High Court against Mr Rubython.

Manchester accountants Royce Peeling Green are in the process of sending an adverse report on Mr Rubython to the Department of Trade & Industry.

The paper went into administration in June, owing pounds 4m, and RPG told creditors it was undercapitalised from the start. The DTI has powers to bring disqualification proceedings against directors and criminal action in the case of wrongful trading, which Mr Rubython denies.

This weekend the usually ebullient Mr Rubython was subdued, but still confident after claiming to have lost pounds 2m in all.

"I'm obviously not a rich man now, but I don't intend to be poor forever," he said.

Fully paid-for circulation, he said, now stood at 45,000 to 50,000 copies a week, against the initial 150,000 target, and the paper was close to breaking even.

The figures, however, are hard to verify and trade sources suggest that paid-for circulation might be as low as 35,000.

Mr Brown's firm, Group 2000, bought the newspaper for pounds 50,000 in September, after lending pounds 1.3m.

His interest, however, remains a mystery as the 44-year-old businessman, whose previous firm, Brown Group International, collapsed in 1990, has a background in construction machinery, not media. Group 2000, formed in 1992, made losses of pounds 45,000 to April 1995. He is not the only backer, however. In July, Brian Thompson - managing director of quoted waste group VHE Holdings - lent pounds 1m to Group 2000 via a Jersey-based trust.

Another Yorkshire businessman is understood to have invested pounds 750,000 recently on the basis that the paper might be turned around and later sold.