Wray 'linked to AIM flops'

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Nigel Wray, the millionaire chairman of Burford Holdings who made his first fortune from publishing share tips, has close ties to Ellis & Partners, stockbroker to several flops on the Alternative Investment Market.

According to the company's share register, 9.56 per cent of Ellis is owned by Lacosint Establishment and 9.3 per cent (26,235 shares) by Gina Pharar. An exactly equal holding of 9.3 per cent is held by Mare Navigation, an offshore concern in Guernsey.

Lacosint was a shareholder in the consortium headed by Mr Wray that took control of Nottingham Forest this year. According to Nina Gardiner, a club spokeswoman, Lacosint is "one of Nigel's private companies".

Clive Mattock, one of Ellis & Partners' three directors, insisted Mr Wray holds no interest in the broking firm, one of the most active on AIM. "Lacosint is some sort of trust and Wray may advise it," said Mr Mattock. "But he has no beneficial interest in it."

Mr Mattock, a boardroom colleague of Mr Wray at the old UTC financial services firm, insisted Ms Pharar represents herself at the broking firm. Informed that her address is the same as that of Burford Holdings, Mr Mattock said: "I think she may be an employee of Burford." Mr Wray did not return several phone calls.

Until now the largest stakes in Ellis are the 14 per cent held by director Robert Ellis and Max Lewinsohn's 11.7 per cent holding. Mr Lewinsohn, a long-standing business connection of Mr Wray and Mr Mattock, is disqualified from acting as a company director following his role in running financial securities firm Dominion International which collapsed in 1990.

In 1992 Mr Lewinsohn resigned from the board of Card Clear, the quoted company that combats credit card fraud, following criticism that the company prospectus failed to inform potential investors of his business history. Ellis & Partners was broker to Card Clear.

Two years later Mr Mattock was one of the City figures criticised in the DTI report into Tony Cole's attempt to regain control of Bestwood. According to the DTI appointed inspectors, Mr Mattock had "tried to mislead" them.

Last year Ellis & Partners pre-tax profits rose more than threefold to pounds 524,000 on turnover of just pounds 2.8m.

Ellis was broker to four AIM companies, Rushmere Wynne, Sira Business Services, Pordum Foods and Lotteryking that failed to live up to profit forecasts. Share promoter Reg Burr had been a shareholder in some of the companies before flotation. Mr Burr's wife is a minority shareholder in Ellis & Partners.

In August the London stock exchange introduced new rules affecting flotations on AIM. Companies must review profit forecasts and if there is likely to be a shortfall, report it to the stock market. They must disclose the names of individuals or businesses receiving more than pounds 10,000 in fees or shares in the year before flotation.