Marco Pierre White hid assets from wife during divorce, court told
Jim Armitage is the City editor of The Independent and London Evening Standard group of newspapers. He has been a reporter and editor for more than 20 years and was recently shortlisted for the Press Gazette financial journalist of the year and The Society of Editors financial journalist of the year awards. He contributes news, investigative reports and comment to the Independent titles plus a daily column in the Evening Standard.
Wednesday 12 June 2013
The celebrity chef Marco Pierre White has been accused in the High Court of deliberately concealing his stake in the gastropub the Yew Tree Inn during the high-profile divorce proceedings against his wife, Mati.
The allegations, which he denied, were made in a court case in which the Hell's Kitchen star is suing his former business partners with claims that he was wrongly frozen out of his share in the business.
Mr White used the 17th-century Berkshire country pub – until 2011 branded Marco Pierre White's Yew Tree Inn – to film his 2008 series Marco's Great British Feast.
He claims that his near-third stake in the business was whittled down to zero without his knowledge in a financial reorganisation in 2008. "They took my shares but never paid for my shares. That cannot be right, I am sorry," he said.
However, Max Mallin, the QC for his former partners, Andrew Parton and Peter Featherman, claimed: "You were repeatedly invited to take up your 38 per cent shareholding but refused." He added: "You instructed everybody to hold off [granting you the shares] pending the outcome of your divorce."
Mr White denied this, claiming: "Why would I do that? My wife's law firms were Withers and they are quite shrewd… My name was above the door, there were [my] artworks on the walls, I had 38 per cent. I had nothing to hide… I would not try to deceive my wife."
After a famously stormy marriage, which included a fight that resulted in Mr White spending 14 hours in a police cell, divorce proceedings began in 2007. Mati had been a shareholder in the business but Marco had insisted she be removed when their divorce proceedings began, the chef said.
His defence claims that relations broke down with Mr White when he demanded the pub be renamed with his name and that of Wheeler's – another restaurant brand in which he had an interest. His partners opposed the plan and Mr White withdrew his name from the pub altogether. It subsequently went bust.
The chef claims that he still should have been given his 38 per cent stake even without lending the pub his name – a claim that the defence contests.
Mr Mallin accused Mr White of using the Yew Tree "as a family home" during his divorce and claimed the chef's children misbehaved while treating the place "like a hostel", deliberately leaving showers on and causing floods.
Mr White accepted that he stayed at the pub but said the talk of his sons' behaviour was a "fabrication".
"I spent a lot of time there in 2008 and 2009. There were times when I had my sons there but I think this is designed to try and embarrass me," he said.
It also emerged in the hearing that Mr White uses an offshore trust, Zena, in a Swiss tax haven to hold his branding rights.
Mr Parton is a mechanical engineer and businessman while Mr Featherman is a trained accountant who has invested in other restaurant projects with the likes of chef Anton Mosimann.
The hearing, which is set to last four days, continues.
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