MARK Law, former chairman of Partridge, has joined former directors David Mellor and Christopher Jemmett in their bid to remove their guarantor status relating to the purchase of the firm.
Mr Law, who is jointly and severally liable with them as a
guarantor, has had his name added to their writ demanding the
removal of their guarantor status on the grounds that they were
misled by previous chairman John Partridge as to the state of the
company during negotiations for its purchase.
An approach by the guarantors to settle the matter out of court
was strongly rebuffed by John Partridge's lawyers in November.
The Law/Mellor/Jemmett writ to strike out the guarantees
followed legal action by Mr Partridge and his fellow creditors
after it became clear that the final payment - £1.33m - in the £14m
purchase deal agreed in 2005 would not be paid by November 16 last
The rival claims have been accompanied by bitter personal
attacks on both sides and seem almost certain to end in court.
John Partridge and his son Frank have attacked the bid to have
the guarantees struck out as a cynical attempt on the part of
Mellor, Jemmett and Law to avoid paying the £1.3m owed, dismissing
the guarantors' claims as "absolute fantasy".
Mr Law has indicated that he intends to take further legal
action over sums he told ATG he had refunded customers with regard
to problems relating to objects purchased during the John Partridge
Much of the basis of the guarantors' complaint is that John and
Frank Partridge, in particular, were party to fraudulent
transactions involving fakes during their stewardship of the
company, accusations they strongly deny.
Mr Law told ATG that it was only in the spring of 2006, a few
months after he and his fellow directors bought the company, that
they first became concerned about what had gone on before.
When asked why it took them until the end of 2009 - following
the placing into administration in July and later sale of the
company - to go public and pursue a legal course, Mr Law said it
was because considerable fresh evidence had come to light from a
new source in September 2009.
In their writ the guarantors cite eight cases where they argue
that customers were defrauded "by dishonest descriptions and
provenances" linked to counterfeit furniture. They further argue
that refunds linked to these cases were not clearly shown in the
company's accounts, leading to a false picture of financial
performance and the value of Partridge Fine Arts Ltd, a public
The guarantors say that both these factors would have serious
implications for the company's reputation and future prosperity,
and the purchasers, led by Mr Law, should have been made aware of
them during negotiations to acquire the company.
For their part, the Partridges deny any wrongdoing, dismiss the
claims as "absolute fantasy" and accuse Law, Mellor and Jemmett of
creating "trumped-up allegations".
It is thought that it could take up to a year before the claims
are heard in court.
By Ivan Macquisten