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£90m Lenwade legal suit is 'ludicrous'[

PUBLISHED: 15:29 04 June 2008 | UPDATED: 14:35 07 July 2010

A multi-millionaire Norfolk businessman has described a £90m legal claim against him as "ludicrous".

Andre Serruys and his family firm SPC Holdings are facing the legal challenge by waste management group Sita UK, which bought the Lenwade-based scrap metal company Easco from him for £93m last May.

A multi-millionaire Norfolk businessman has described a £90m legal claim against him as “ludicrous”.

Andre Serruys and his family firm SPC Holdings are facing the legal challenge by waste management group Sita UK, which bought the Lenwade-based scrap metal company Easco from him for £93m last May.

Sita has issued a High Court writ against Mr Serruys, SPC Holdings and former Easco director Richard Cubitt, claiming the company's value had been inflated because of discrepancies in how much the firm was actually paying for metal and therefore the profits the company was making.

Mr Serruys - son of Harry Serruys, one of Norfolk's most famous businessmen, who died in 2005 - is preparing to fight the claim, which he says is groundless.

Easco, which began life in Watton in 1984 before moving to Lenwade in 1995, employed about 300 people and had 13 recycling sites in the UK at the time of the sale to Sita.

The business, formerly part of the Serruys family's SPC empire, had reported a doubling in turnover in the three years prior to its sale to about £90m a year from more than 500,000 tonnes of metal.

But Sita, part of French utilities giant Suez said the company was now practically worthless because it was nowhere near as profitable as the accounts had claimed and wants damages paid to it for either innocent or fraudulent breach of warranty.

The 51-year-old, based at Stanfield Hall near Wymondham, was unavailable for comment, along with Mr Cubitt, but a statement from SPC dismissed the claims.

It said: “According to Sita, Easco Limited, a business with a net asset value of £20m and profits of £13m, was worthless at the time of the sale. That claim is viewed by Mr Serruys and SPC as completely ludicrous.

“At the time of the sale to Sita, Easco was one of the largest metal traders in the UK. It was well managed, well respected in the industry and had a long history of profitability.

“The business was supported by loyal, committed and experienced employees and a long term customer base.”

SPC said Sita was to blame for a subsequent loss of customers, and was seeking to pin the blame on the previous owners.

The statement added: “A defence to the legal proceedings is currently being prepared and Mr Serruys is confident that he will be able to demonstrate that the allegations that have been made by Sita have no merit whatsoever.”

A spokesman for Sita said: “In view of ongoing proceedings in the High Court, it would be inappropriate for Sita to comment at this time.”

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