Pub chain boss toasts victory in fraud battle

PUBLISHED: 17:07 15 April 2009 | UPDATED: 16:32 25 August 2010



A PUB chain multi-millionaire has successfully sued a greedy property agent for fraud after a three-year court battle.

A PUB chain multi-millionaire has successfully sued a "greedy" property agent for fraud after a three-year court battle.

Founder and chairman of JD Wetherspoon Tim Martin secured a victory against Christian Braun, director of property advisory firm Van de Berg, at the High Court last Tuesday.

The court heard how Braun, who had been paid to find properties exclusively for the pub chain, had diverted property deals to third parties to make extra money.

These included a property in Sidcup at 7-8 Elm Place, which is now the Portrait pub.

In 2002 the property was let to a competitor pub chain - Barracuda - by a company in which Braun had an interest in.

Braun claimed the site was too small for Wetherspoon and he therefore decided not to pass the details to the chain.

But in his judgement Mr Justice Peter Smith said: "It is simply not correct to pass these opportunities on to a competitor of the nature of Barracuda."

Braun's co-directors Richard Harvey and George Aldridge, who is a chartered surveyor, were also found to have been dishonest in their dealings with the chain, on behalf of Van de Berg.

Mr 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."

Now, seven years after their initial attempt to open a site in Sidcup, the first Wetherspoon pub will open in the High Street next Friday. The company has spent £500,000 renovating the Hogs Head pub which will be called The Tailor's Chalk, referring to the shop that existed at the site in the Victorian era.

Wetherspoon is claiming compensation from Van de Berg, the value of which will be decided at a separate hearing at a date yet to be arranged.

The property adviser has also been ordered to pay Wetherspoon's costs.

A spokesman for Van de Berg was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press. A spokesperson for the Barracuda Group declined to comment.

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