THE extraordinary saga over Partridge Fine Art has taken another twist with a legal row over claims of long-term systematic fraud and faking by the Bond Street dealership.
Two writs related to the sale of the company in 2005 were filed
in the High Court in December.
The former Partridge shareholders, led by ex-chairman John
Partridge, have issued a writ for non-payment against David Mellor
and Christopher Jemmett, members of the Amor Holdings consortium
which bought Partridge.
Former Heritage Secretary Mr Mellor and businessman Mr Jemmett
have countered with a writ demanding the removal of their guarantor
status, claiming they were misled by John Partridge as to the state
of the company during negotiations for its purchase.
Legal action began after it became clear that the final payment
- £1.33m - in the £14m purchase deal agreed in 2005 would not be
Mr Mellor and Mr Jemmett, who bought the company with dealer and
auctioneer Mark Law as part of the Amor Holdings Ltd consortium,
stood as guarantors of the payment, which ATG understands should
have been made on November 16.
However, they made it clear that they would not be paying
because they felt they had been misled over the purchase, and they
made a number of accusations concerning the manner in which the
company had been run prior to their purchase of it.
ATG further understands that the previous shareholders issued a
writ for payment in mid December, with Mellor and Jemmett replying
with their own writ two days later.
They want to be freed from their guarantee to pay the final
instalment on the grounds that the company was mismanaged over more
than two decades before they bought it.
They are also arguing that they were not given a true picture of
the state of the company when they bought it. They say the previous
owners should have made them aware of doubts raised over the
authenticity of objects sold by the firm and given more detail of
the circumstances where large refunds had to be made.
More seriously, they also accuse John and Frank Partridge of
fraud and being party to the counterfeiting of pieces they
The Partridge family have issued a firm denial of the
accusations, with Frank Partridge describing them to ATG as
Mr Law, who became chairman of the company under the consortium,
is not party to the Mellor/Jemmett writ, but remains jointly liable
with them for the final payment.
It is not yet clear what action he intends to take over the
matter. ATG were still hoping to talk to Mr Law and Mr Mellor at
the time of going to press.
Meanwhile, Frank Partridge said that the writ issued against his
father and the other former shareholders was no more than a cynical
attempt to drum up a reason not to pay the guarantee: "It's an
absolute tragedy that this has happened. It doesn't do the antiques
world any good," he told ATG adding: "We will be answering all
their allegations and if they don't pay we'll see them in
Whatever the outcome, this latest legal wrangle caps what has
been a sorry year for Partridge Fine Art after more than a century
of pre-eminence in what became known as the Palace of the Arts -
the multi-storey gallery in the heart of Mayfair.
Having been put into administration in July, after Allied Irish
Bank called in its loans, the removal men cleared the premises and
took down the name from above the door in September.
By Ivan Macquisten
Antiques Trade Gazette is the weekly bible of the fine art and antiques industry. Read articles like this every week in the Antiques Trade Gazette or ATG app. Click here to subscribe today.