By court reporter and Neil Gerrard (email@example.com)
A legal battle between high-profile businessman and chef Michael Riemenschneider and Flora Mascolo, widow of the millionaire former owner of Toni and Guy hair salons, spilled into London’s High Court this week.
The hearing, a preliminary skirmish to a full action scheduled for the court late next year, the details of which are yet to be made clear, focused on an asset freezing order already made against Riemenschneider.
However, after two and a half hours in court, the case was adjourned at the request of his lawyers. The renewed hearing is scheduled for the beginning of December but no date has been fixed.
The legal team for Flora Mascolo, who is said to have invested almost £2m in restaurant ventures by Riemenschneider, complained that the chef has breached the order to freeze his assets, which have been put at £700,000.
Flora Mascolo and daughter, Emmanuella Mascolo
In the High Court yesterday (Thursday) Huw Davies, for Riemenschneider, who denies all the allegations against him, requested more time to answer the current allegations relating to the freezing order.
Davies complained that Mascolo’s legal team were “adopting a tactical game to milk his (Riemenschneider’s) money by depleting his assets and legal costs.”
He continued: “He’s doing his best to comply with the original freezing order.
“Allegations being made are absurd and incredible. It is not right that he is a complete rogue dissipating his assets. Money which had been taken out had gone back into the restaurant. Monies are being used for the restaurant.”
Riemenschneider currently runs restaurant Atelier Wilma in Germany but prior to that was involved in several UK ventures.
Referring to “tangible property” Mr Davies continued : “The freezing injunction is only in respect of a Mercedes so we are entitled to use other assets to fund the defence.
“One out of two restaurants involved is, in fact, closed. He’s cobbled together to keep the other one with debts to pay.”
Dismissing allegations that Mr Riemenschneider was involved in online gambling and took part in a poker tournament in the Czech Republic, Mr Davies claimed that an entrant in the poker tournament was a another man with the same name as Mr Riemenschneider.
However, Rupert D’Cruz, for Mrs Mascolo, said it was “absurd” to describe the legal action as “tactical”, adding: “He had no money before he met her. We want to preserve assets so there is something to enforce against. Also, he only responds consistently when faced with a court order.
“He has a track record of opening restaurants, closing them, moving to another part of the country or moving to another country and he’s been talking about taking up a position as a celebrity chef in Dubai and has been travelling there.”
Granting the adjournment, Mr Justice Supperstone said: “I’ve reached the conclusion that it’s proper to accede to the application for the adjournment to give Mr Riemenschneider a proper and final opportunity to prepare his case and provide proper documentation. I have well in mind the history of the proceedings.”
Mrs Mascolo is the widow of Guy Mascolo, who died aged 65 in 2009 of a heart attack. His business empire, which included more than 400 Toni & Guy-branded hair salons in 41 countries and the TiGi line of products, was sold to Unilever for $415m (£330m).
Riemenschneider struggled to establish himself as a successful restaurateur in the UK. In 2009, he was forced to close the two restaurants he had opened with business partner Bill Treloar – the Abbey in Cornwall and Juniper in Greater Manchester. He also opened the Highwayman in Rainow near Macclesfield, in 2010, which has since closed, and also briefly took over the Barcaldine House Hotel in Oban in 2011.
He then opened a restaurant in London’s Marylebone in 2014 where customers could design their own tasting menu before later moving the concept to the site of what was Le Cercle, in London’s Wilbraham Place.
At around the same time, he also took on responsibility for running the Black Boys Inn in Hurley, in West Berkshire, as part of a deal with investors that saw the formation of Michael Riemenschneider Dining Limited.
However, he abruptly left both restaurants on 15 January 2015 – the same day that Canvas was awarded three rosettes from the AA, before later returning to Germany.
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