Percival Hole, 49, from Salford, Greater Manchester, admitted taking a pounds 59,000 Bentley Turbo while employed by Rodney Price, chairman of the Thistle Group of Hotels and his wife, Loeen.
He sold the car while the couple were away on holiday and spent the proceeds, said Martyn Bowyer, for the prosecution.
Hole was hired by the Australian-born hotel chief to work at his home in Belgravia in 1995, the court heard, but Mr Price was unaware that he had been cashiered from the army catering corps and previously jailed for dishonesty.
Mr Bowyer told the court: "In a household such as the Prices, where there was a considerable degree of entertaining, and one or both were away on business for periods, enormous responsibility and trust was invested in their butler. He was given day-to-day control of running the household and some control of the accounts." Hole was even given a Coutts bank switch card for household expenses.
Known as "John" to the Prices, he was paid pounds 1,800-a-month, with free accommodation and meals provided. He also acted as chauffeur on occasions and had access to the family cars, including the green Bentley.
It was while the Prices were in Australia last year that Hole sold the car, the court was told. He had duped Mrs Price into leaving behind the registration book and changed the ownership to himself. He then sold it to a car dealer and simply disappeared with the pounds 56,000 proceeds
"When Mr Price came back from Australia, he discovered not only his butler had disappeared, but his Bentley was missing, together with pounds 3,500 from the family safe," said Mr Bowyer.
Police eventually traced Hole to Salford and arrested him at a public house where he allegedly said: "OK, I will come with you - let me just finish this drink." He immediately admitted selling the Bentley - and claimed he had intended to invest in a timber business in Estonia. But as he did not like flying he and an innocent associate took a train across Europe, he said. However, once in Frankfurt he started spending lavishly. Later he developed hepatitis and had to return to Britain because he had run out of money.
"He said if he had, did they think he would be in Manchester - which he described as the arsehole of the world," said Mr Bowyer.
Hole is due to be sentenced in September when an inquiry into his assets should be complete. His counsel, Owen Davies, said Hole wanted it known that he had not acted out of a grudge against his employers.
t A butler indecently assaulted his elderly employer, Cicely Lancaster, and threatened to throw her ashes on to the rhubarb patch, a court heard yesterday. Dennis Tyler, 63, of Market Harborough, Leicestershire, denies fondling the 97-year-old, who has since died, at an estate in Northamptonshire. The case continues.Reuse content