High street pub operator JD Wetherspoon today secured a victory in its fraud case against its former sole property agent Van de Berg and VdB director Christian Braun.
Braun's co-directors Richard Harvey and George Aldridge were also found to have been dishonest in their dealings with Wetherspoon.
The pub company had claimed that VdB, which acted as its outsourced property finding department for many years, had, on a number of occasions, stretching back to the early 1990s, diverted good freehold property deals to third parties rather than bringing them first to Wetherspoon, as its retainer required.
Instead, it introduced third parties to the freehold and put Wetherspoon into a lease at a rent which increased the value of the freehold for the third party buyer, from whom a separate fee was often sought by VdB.
In 1998, Tim Martin, Wetherspoon's founder and chairman, became suspicious of some of VdB's dealings, but was given reassurances of loyalty by Braun, which put him off the scent until suspicions were aroused once more in 2005 and VdB's contract was summarily terminated.
Following a large-scale review of VdB's dealings, in late 2006, a fraud action was commenced leading to the court case.
Speaking after this morning's result, Martin said: "We are delighted by the result. The defendants were dealing with us on the basis of trust and received fees of many millions of pounds over a long period.
"It was astonishingly dishonest and greedy to divert properties to third parties. A lot of people think that anything goes in the property market and this case shows that that's not true."
By Daniel Thomas
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