In the past few weeks, celebrity chef Albert Roux has been fighting a desperate battle to keep one of his trading companies alive - but it appears he has failed.
One of the trading companies of his business empire, Roux Lamartine - which has traded fruit, vegetables and poultry at London's New Covent Garden market for 14 years - has ceased trading.
An answerphone message at the company's offices last week explained the predicament: "Dear chefs, we are sorry to tell you that after a long struggle we have had to close down... Thank you for your support."
The directors have asked accountants to convene a creditors' meeting later this month under section 98 of the Insolvency Act.
The company's latest set of accounts, which were filed earlier this month at Companies House, show that since April Mr Roux and another director, John Monk, provided more than pounds 270,000 to help the company meet its liabilities. But even this does not seem to have been enough to save the company whose debts are estimated at more than pounds 1m.
The latest full-year results show a loss of pounds 221,217, which is down on losses of pounds 414,787 the previous year. The balance sheet shows no cash in the bank at the April year-end. A footnote to the accounts states: "Due to the breakdown and lack of documentation in the year ended 30 June 1994, it is not possible to identify separately distribution and administration expenses," the accounts say.
A spokesman for the accountants, Taylor, Gotham and Fry, said yesterday that the firm had not yet had the opportunity to fully review the books of the company to determine whether it might still be viable. He said it was impossible at this stage to say what would happen to the company but that it was inevitable that a liquidator would be appointed.
Albert Roux, who is a director of Roux Lamartine, was unavailable for comment. The Independent tried to contact him several times. Mr Roux is also listed as a director of a host of other catering companies, including Le Gavroche and Roux Fine Dining, which he recently sold to Compass, the catering services group.
The financial performance of Roux Restaurants, owned principally by the Roux family, improved in the past year - but only because of a near pounds 1m profit on the disposal of discontinued operations. Although the company made an operating loss for the year of pounds 553,747, it made a pre-tax profit of pounds 343,280 after disposals. Its accumulated losses are still around pounds 650,000.
Together with his younger brother Michel, Albert had a television series in England during the1980s and wrote a book At Home with the Roux Brothers. The brothers first learned to cook from their mother; Albert was apprenticed at 14 as a patissier and later cooked for the British embassy in Paris.
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