Celebrity chef Marco Pierre White, who claims he was cheated out of his share of a top restaurant that used his name, launched a £174,000 damages claim in the High Court today.
The 51-year-old restaurateur is suing two former business partners for damages for breach of contract and deceit after being 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 says he has not had a penny.
His former partners Andrew Parton and Peter Featherman say he is not entitled to anything and are suing him for between £400,000 and £600,000 for failing to grant them a licence to use his name.
They say the removal of his name and resulting bad publicity led to a very big drop in turnover forcing them to sell.
White who seeks damages 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 one of the country's top judges, 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.
But 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".
White alleged 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 claimed 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.
The hearing, set to last four days, continues. Judgment is expected to be reserved at the end of the hearing and given in writing later.