Accountant who remains a stranger to solvency: John Wilcock on the colourful figure of Michael Jordan, administrator for the collapsed Polly Peck empire

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The Independent Online
THE insolvency practitioners whose job it is to wind up bust companies always draw flak during recessions, since they make their profits when everyone else is being hammered. Michael Jordan, one of the top three insolvency accountants in the UK, is no exception.

But there his resemblance to colleagues ends. Urbane, languid, impeccably dressed, the sight of Mr Jordan stepping out of his blue Daimler immediately separates him from the grey hordes elsewhere in accountancy.

Formerly chairman and chief executive of Cork Gully, the insolvency arm of the accountants Coopers & Lybrand and the biggest of its kind, Mr Jordan officially retired in November 1993. However, he continues to handle his outstanding cases, including the one that has come to dog him - Polly Peck.

Mr Jordan has a reputation in the profession for being a socialite, prompted by his regular appearances at Annabel's, the exclusive London nightclub. The nightclubbing ended years ago, but he is still to be seen at all the right places - Glyndebourne, for example.

Married for the second time in 1990, he owns a farmhouse in south Buckinghamshire. His success stems from his ability to fete clients and a frosty negotiating style which would have made him one of the great poker players.

Born in Derbyshire in 1931, Mr Jordan is the son of a prosperous builders' merchant. He was educated at the independent Haileybury school in Hertfordshire.

The current Polly Peck controversies have come as a bitter blow to Mr Jordan at the end of what has been an outstanding career. He went into practice in Cardiff but was later moved to London to head a newly acquired insolvency firm which he merged with Cork Gully, led by Sir Kenneth Cork.

After Mr Cork's retirement, Mr Jordan again merged the firm with Coopers & Lybrand - a move he later bitterly regretted.

The idea was that no businessman would welcome a man from the UK's leading corporate undertakers walking in to investigate their company. This was inhibiting Corks from getting lucrative investigation work on behalf of the banks. But Mr Jordan disliked submerging his firm into the faceless bureaucracy of Coopers.

Public criticism by Mr Jordan led to Coopers abolishing the Cork Gully name last year - another bitter blow. As head of Cork Gully, Mr Jordan had a long track record in dealing with failed concerns: Barlow Clowes, Savings & Investment Bank, Learfan, Acrow, Ronnie Lyon, and Norton Villiers Triumph. In 1990 Mr Jordan had said: 'I haven't seen a solvent balance sheet since 1962.'

When Asil Nadir's fresh fruit to electronics empire went into administration in 1990, Mr Jordan declared that it would be the first successful use of the administration procedure, introduced in 1986, to rescue a multinational company.

Since then, the tangled politics of northern Cyprus have presented a series of obstacles to a smooth rescue of the company. Mr Nadir's PR campaign against both the administrators and the UK authorities has made any resolution of the case on British terms increasingly unlikely.

Another blow fell when the Institute of Chartered Accountants reprimanded Mr Jordan and his Coopers partner Richard Stone for having accepted the Polly Peck job after Coopers had been advising Asil Nadir on tax issues - a conflict of interest. They were both fined pounds 1,000.

(Photograph omitted)