Failed pubs 'cost Venables pounds 400,000'

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The England football coach, Terry Venables, lost more than pounds 400,000 in a failed pub venture, the High Court heard yesterday.

Mr Venables is trying to reclaim from Paul Kirby, a former business partner, the pounds 144,359 which he paid to the National Westminster bank to clear the company's debts.

But Mr Kirby, of South Kensington, west London, claimed at an earlier hearing that he was kept in the dark when Mr Venables hived off the assets of Transatlantic Inns Ltd to use as security for the pounds 1m loan he needed to buy his way into the Tottenham Hotspur football club.

Jonathan Rayner-James QC, for Mr Venables, said yesterday that Transatlantic controlled four pubs - the Cock and Magpie in Epping, Essex, the Royal Oak in Marlow, Bucks, the Granby Tavern, in Berkshire, and Macey's in Mayfair, central London.

"It is a sad fact that in the period we are dealing with, except for rare exceptions, none of the pubs traded successfully," he said.

Mr Kirby was the "day-to-day" manager of the company and Mr Venables acted as a front-man, who would turn up in the evenings at the pubs to boost trade, added Mr Rayner-James. By 1991, the company had accumulated losses of pounds 256,000, the overdraft was over pounds 300,000 and Mr Venables formed a new company, Recall City, to manage the remaining pubs in the group.

Mr Rayner-James said that even after the split with Transatlantic, Mr Venables was paying off their accumulated debts.

When Transatlantic went into liquidation, NatWest called in their overdraft which had been guaranteed by Mr Venables, Mr Kirby and two other partners.

All four business partners had signed a contract of indemnity agreeing to pay off any debts arising from the NatWest overdraft facility.

In June 1992, Mr Venables paid pounds 144,359 to clear the overdraft, but says he is now entitled under the indemnity to be reimbursed by Mr Kirby in full or, alternatively, receive one-quarter of the full total on the basis that he was a co- guarantor with the three others.

The hearing, closed to the public for the afternoon, was expected to continue today in chambers.