PARTRIDGE Fine Art chairman Mark Law has told ATG that the firm’s bank called in administrators after giving him only 90 minutes notice to pay off their £3m loan facility.
In an exclusive interview, Mr Law also told ATG that
he was given no reason for the move. He said the firm was in a
healthy state and he is now putting together a fresh deal to buy
back the landmark Bond Street dealership.
Allied Irish Bank called in the administrators on
Monday, July 20 after it was reported that an offer to settle the
debt had not been accepted.
It had been reported that AIB, Partridge's main
creditor, was offered 65p in the pound to settle the debt on July
17, with Mr Law offering to make up the shortfall from his own
However, Mr Law has now told ATG that the first he
knew that anything was wrong was when a letter arrived at 10.30am
on Monday, July 20, calling for £2.5m of the debt to be settled by
noon that day. A further demand for £550,000 - to be settled by the
same deadline - came shortly after, he explained.
"We had no problem with the business and there was no
explanation," he said.
When ATG put Mr Law's comments to AIB, however, they
denied his explanation of events. "It's simply not true," said a
spokesman, although he declined to go into any further detail at
Andrew Stoneman and Matt Bond, partners at Recovery
specialists MCR, have been appointed as joint administrators and
are running the firm as normal while actively seeking a buyer for
the business, its assets and the lease of the building itself.
The dealership is housed in possibly the grandest
building in Bond Street, a purpose-built four-storey listed
building called the Palace of the Arts, from where it has supplied
the finest art and antiques to the likes of Queen Mary, the Burrell
Collection in Glasgow and, perhaps most notably, the British Museum
and the Getty Museum in Malibu, California.
The company ran into trouble around five years ago,
when then chairman John Partridge unveiled what he dubbed the worst
set of trading figures in his 46 years at the helm.
Mr Law, a former auctioneer and ceramics specialist,
who already ran porcelain specialists Albert Amor, quickly put
together a bid to take control of the company. With the backing of
a consortium including former Culture Secretary David Mellor - a
client of Partridge - he formed Amor Holdings, an investment
vehicle that bought out the Partridge family in a £14m staggered
Princess Michael of Kent was later appointed
president of the company.
Administrator Andrew Stoneman said: "This is a world
famous fine art dealer with a strong and loyal customer base. It is
too early to determine the reasons why the company has gone into
administration and we are concentrating on saving the business and
selling the store as a going concern, thus saving a piece of
history as well as the employment of those working there. We are
confident that there will be a significant amount of interest."