Walker offer may lift threat of bankruptcy

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The Independent Online
THE CHANCES of George Walker, the former boxer and chairman of Brent Walker, avoiding bankruptcy today have improved after it emerged that the Inland Revenue had agreed to accept a voluntary scheme of arrangement proposed by Mr Walker that could mean it gives up almost all of its pounds 40m claim.

Creditors owed more than pounds 150m meet today to decide whether to agree to the voluntary scheme of arrangement. A previous meeting, earlier this month, was adjourned while Raymond Hocking, a partner of the accountants Stoy Hayward, assessed whether disputed claims made by creditor banks were allowable.

If these claims, which total more than pounds 50m, are disallowed Mr Walker will almost certainly avoid bankruptcy. As it is, the decision by the Inland Revenue to support the voluntary scheme of arrangement makes it more likely that the scheme will be adopted.

In his submission to creditors Mr Walker said that his assets under bankruptcy would be just pounds 125,000. He owns a one-sixth share in a flat in Zermatt, Switzerland, and properties in Liverpool and Chatham, Kent.

However, Mr Walker said that under a voluntary arrangement, he could pursue claims against Brent Walker for loss of office that could be worth pounds 14.5m and creditors would be able to receive 10p in the pound for their claims.

If the scheme goes through, and the legal actions are unsuccessful, the Inland Revenue could receive less than pounds 40,000, a loss to the Treasury of pounds 39.9m.

A large-scale creditor told the Independent yesterday that Mr Walker had written to some creditors saying that if they accepted a voluntary scheme of arrangement family trusts that were not under the control of Mr Walker may be prepared to make payments to cover some of his debts.

Michael Coleman, a partner in Harkavy's, Mr Walker's solictors, said he knew nothing of these letters and would not comment on how Mr Walker would be able to offer commitments from trusts that he said he did not control.

Mr Walker's previous solicitors, D J Freeman, are listed as a creditor to the tune of pounds 250,000. Among other creditors are Smurfit, a subsidiary of the Irish group Jefferson Smurfit, owed pounds 25m, and Hambros Bank, owed pounds 5m.

Earlier this month Kevin Maxwell became the UK's largest bankrupt, having been assessed as owing pounds 406m, mostly to pensioners of companies formerly controlled by the Maxwell family.