Egon Ronay forces guide publishers to close

The food critic Egon Ronay has forced the publishers of his world- famous restaurant guides to close down after a High Court judge was told their methods "stink".

Mr Ronay claimed that Leading Guides International failed to pay promptly the inspectors who tour Britain filing reports for the guides.

He said the company owed him more than pounds 37,000 and almost pounds 200,000 to 20 creditors.

The company had claimed that it was already in voluntary liquidation and would be able to pay off its debts - some of which were owed to the food inspectors - within a year.

But James Munby QC, for Mr Ronay, said: "This is a matter which stinks and is a case with a crying need for a compulsory liquidation so that a wholly independent liquidator can investigate matters."

He said "sinister connotations" could be read into the company changing its name after it was served with the first winding-up petition and again after the current one.

Mr Munby called for an independent investigation, claiming that the company had been involved in unlawful trading while insolvent, had used its complex group structure to the detriment of creditors, and that the pounds 400,000 offer was put up to avoid independent scrutiny.

Granting a compulsory winding-up order, Mr Justice Rattee said: "The evidence as a whole points to there being very grave suspicions of the propriety of this company." The order was opposed by Richbell, an associated company of Leading Guides, which claimed it was owed pounds 2m.

Mr Ronay founded the guides in 1956 and sold them in 1985 to the Automobile Association, which in turn sold them to Leading Guides, now known as Global Infocom Ltd. Mr Ronay, who was awarded punitive costs, said he would make an announcement today about the future of the books.

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