Celebrity chef Marco Pierre White was branded a "dishonest idiot" by a High Court judge today. The judge rounded on White as he threw out his £174,000 damages claim for allegedly being cheated out of his share of a top restaurant.
The 51-year-old restaurateur also faces an estimated £500,000 legal bill for the claim against two former business partners. Judge, Mr Justice Morgan said the claim was "wholly misconceived."
He ordered White to pay £240,000 of the costs on account within 14 days after dismissing his claim for damages for breach of contract and deceit for being allegedly frozen out of his slice of the profits from the 17th Century Yew Tree Inn in Highclere, Hampshire.
The business, which had been known as Marco Pierre White's Yew Tree Inn, was sold in June last year for £900,000. But the TV personality and star of Hell's Kitchen has not had a penny.
His former partners Andrew Parton and Peter Featherman say he is not entitled to anything and in return and are suing him for between £400,000 and £600,000 for failing to grant them a licence to use his name.
The counter claim was based on there being a contract and as the judge ruled there was never any contract, he made no order on the counterclaim. But he gave the partners all the legal costs.
They argued that the removal of his name in January 2011 and resulting bad publicity led to a very big drop in turnover forcing them to sell.
White told the court in evidence that he did everything to promote the business on his Great British Feast TV programme and the book of the same name.
He said under an agreement he should have had 38% shares in the company that ran the restaurant.
He was not expecting to be paid for the use of his name but did expect to get dividends and a share of the business if it was sold. He claimed business increased because of his promotion of it.
His counsel Robert Deacon told Mr Justice Morgan that the "well known celebrity chef and restaurateur" claims damages to compensate him for what would have been valuable shares if his partners had kept to the agreement with him.
But his former partners claim he would only get the shares if he granted a licence to use his name without charge, and no such licence was ever granted.
The judge said White was "plainly an unreliable witness."
He added: "Mr White was not straightforward and was not honest in his evidence and I would question his intelligence in bringing this claim at all."
He went on: " Mr White has been a bit of an idiot and it may be he has been a dishonest idiot on top. He is a wealthy man and brought wholly misconceived proceedings. Why shouldn't I now make him pay up?"
He then ordered him to pay the estimated £400,000 costs of his former partners along with his own costs estimated at £100,000. He refused him permission to appeal saying it had no prospect of success.
But White, who was not at court for the ruling, can still ask the Appeal Court for permission to challenge the ruling.
In ordering him to pay the £240,000 within 14 days the judge added: "It is not a bad thing for Mr White to face up to the consequences of his action."
Max Mallin counsel for the former partners told the judge he had lied in his evidence and had maintained that lie and used the court action "as a platform for his own personal vendetta".
But Mr Deacon said it would be "absurd" for the chef "to agree to his name being used in connection with a restaurant business unless he had an interest in the business and continued to have an interest or some control over the business whilst his name was being used or some protection over the use of his name".
He added that the whole point of him "investing in the Yew Tree restaurant and agreeing to continue to do so was that his name could be used as long as he remained a major shareholder in the business. This was the underlying commercial justification for allowing his name to be used" .
He alleges that when the shares were issued in the company set up to run the business, his partners "saw an opportunity to cut him out of the picture yet continue to use his name in association with the restaurant business".
White became involved with the Yew Tree in 2007 and became a director and shareholder of the company that then ran it.
He claims that under reorganisation in 2009 the new company bought all the shares in the old one and he should have been given 38% of the new company to allow his name to continue to be used.
When he did not get the shares he demanded his name be taken off the restaurant, which it was in January 2011. He then sued for damages for deceit.
http://www.catererandhotelkeeper.co.uk/articles/11/6/2013/348840/marco-pierre-white-sues-former-business-partners-for-174-000.htm" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">Marco Pierre White sues former business partners for £174,000 >>