The record rise and staggering fall of Nadir's empire

 

Asil Nadir built Polly Peck International from a small fruit trading business into one of the biggest conglomerates in Europe.

Until its collapse in 1990, Polly Peck was the stock market's fastest growing company.

An investment of £1,000 made in Polly Peck in the late 1970s would have been worth £1 million at the height of its success.

But the dream turned sour and the company collapsed owing £550 million.

Amid plummeting share prices and insider dealing allegations, Nadir fled the UK in 1993 as he was due to stand trial for theft.

He took a late-night flight by private plane to Northern Cyprus and remained there, beyond the reach of the UK authorities, until his return in 2010.

Nadir was born in Cyprus in 1941, the son of a Turkish Cypriot businessman who moved his family to Britain in the 1950s.

In the late 1970s, Nadir took control of listed shell company Polly Peck, and used his stock market status to raise the cash to set up a Northern Cyprus fruit-packing subsidiary, Sunzest, and Unipac, a cardboard box factory, via a share issue.

During the next four years, Polly Peck expanded into consumer electronics and hotel franchises as well as fruit and vegetable packing.

In 1983, the share price crashed, after hitting a high of £35, after rumours circulated that the Turkish authorities were about to withdraw vital tax concessions.

But by 1990, the share price had recovered and sent the company's value rocketing.

Some 70% of the profits recorded at Polly Peck's head office in London supposedly came from the Turkish and Cyprus operations, but few Polly Peck executives understood exactly how they continued to rise steadily.

Bank mandates allowed Nadir and his directors to make payments on the strength of a single signature, a highly unusual facility for the heads of a public company to have.

In 1989, Nadir did the deal that should have secured his status as a major international player, when he raised £577 million to buy Del Monte.

The acquisition made Polly Peck the world's third-largest fruits distributor, but caused trouble for the group's already complicated cash flow.

In summer 1990, persistent rumours about manipulation of Polly Peck's share price reached an intensity where they could not be ignored by City authorities, including the Serious Fraud Office.

As the City's investigation was getting under way, Nadir called a board meeting to propose that he bought back the 75% of Polly Peck shares he did not already own.

But five days later, he withdrew the proposal just as abruptly, and in doing so called down the wrath of the Stock Exchange upon his head.

The Stock Exchange alerted the Department of Trade and Industry as well as the SFO, and his creditor banks began to dump shares to try to redeem some of their loans, causing the share price to collapse once again.

The banks appointed auditors, who tried unsuccessfully to get the paperwork on Nadir's Turkish operations.

That goaded the banks into pressuring the board to put the company into liquidation, which is what happened in October 1990.

In 1994, Polly Peck's creditors were told they were likely to get only a fraction of the £550 million they were owed, somewhere between £15-£55 million. Shareholders got nothing.

PA

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