Gucci herd reined in by receivers

Nine sleek-coated brood mares graze contentedly in a paddock in West Sussex, foals at their sides. In a neighbouring field, half a dozen muscular colts circle one another playfully. In the distance, the roof of a Tudor manor house is just visible.

This is the estate of the late Paolo Gucci, playboy, fashion tycoon and breeder of prize-winning Arabian horses. In a fortnight, 62 of them will be auctioned off in a grand sale at the stables, near Rusper.

More than 1,000 Arab bloodstock fanatics are expected to attend, including Susan George, the actress, Shirley Watts, wife of the Rolling Stones drummer, and a clutch of sheikhs.

The horses, which are expected to go for up to pounds 50,000 apiece, are in fine fettle, bright-eyed and well-fed. But RSPCA inspectors were greeted by a very different spectacle when they visited the stud farm six months ago. The horses were allegedly in a pitiful state, starving and emaciated, some so weak they could barely walk. It was reported that their stables were squalid, knee deep in manure. One was put down on the spot. The RSPCA removed 11 others to an animal welfare centre.

It was a grim footnote to the saga of intrigue and rivalry that has unfolded since Gucci's death from liver cancer two years ago.

Penny Armstrong, the former stablehand who became his girlfriend, is locked in a bitter legal battle with his second wife, Jenny, for control of the 72-acre estate, Millfield Farm.

Ms Armstrong has been charged with cruelty to 13 horses. She denies it, and is still in residence at Normans, the house where she lived with Gucci and their two young children.

Meanwhile, the receivers, KPMG, are still trying to unravel the tangled web of Gucci's financial affairs. Gucci, black sheep of the family, grandson of the founder of the fashion empire, had declared himself bankrupt in 1994. The horses, KMPG decided, were far and away the most valuable asset. So they brought in a stud manager, Sally O'Neill, to nurse them back to a state where they were fit to be sold.

Ms O'Neill said yesterday that conditions at the farm when she first arrived in January were extremely distressing. "The horses were in an awful state. Their ribs were poking out, their coats were tatty. It's not something I would ever want to see again." Under her supervision, they now look every inch the proud and elegant horses prized by breeders for their intelligence and stamina.

The sale has attracted interest from Canada, Australia and the US, as well as Europe. Terry Court, the auctioneer, says it is a unique opportunity to buy some of the best Arab bloodstock around.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Midweight / Senior

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks