3,000 j obs are saved at Patis­serie Va­lerie

Chair­man loans emer­gency £20m

Daily Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - NEWS - BY GRA­HAM HIS­COTT Head of Busi­ness

NEARLY 3,000 jobs at cri­sis-hit cake chain Patis­serie Va­lerie have been saved af­ter a last-gasp res­cue.

Chair­man Luke John­son, best known for turn­ing around Pizza Ex­press, has agreed to loan the firm £20mil­lion.

Share­hold­ers have also been asked to stump up £15mil­lion, at which time he is set to get back half the loan.

The deal came as the chain teetered on col­lapse.

The firm has been plunged into tur­moil by an ac­count­ing scan­dal.

Patis­serie Hold­ings, the par­ent com­pany, ear­lier re­vealed fi­nance chief Chris Marsh had been ar­rested and bailed.

He had al­ready been sus­pended af­ter the board was told on Tues­day about

“sig­nif­i­cant, and po­ten­tially fraud­u­lent, ac­count­ing ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties”.

It emerged HM Rev­enue & Cus­toms had launched a “wind­ing-up” pe­ti­tion to re­cover £1.14mil­lion. It ap­pears board mem­bers did not know.

The com­pany ad­mit­ted yes­ter­day that with­out the £20mil­lion it would have col­lapsed into ad­min­is­tra­tion. It was also forced to rapidly re­vise the state of its fi­nances af­ter an ini­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Debts were worse than thought, at nearly £10mil­lion. It ex­pects an­nual prof­its to more than half to £12mil­lion. Patis­serie Hold­ings said af­ter the deal it “will be able to con­tinue trad­ing in its cur­rent form for the fore­see­able fu­ture”. The move will re­lieve nearly 3,000 staff, who had thought the busi­ness was worth al­most £500mil­lion. As well as Patis­serie Va­lerie stores, it has 60 coun­ters in Sains­bury’s and owns Druck­ers and Flour Power City Bak­ery. Mr John­son, who is the big­gest share­holder with 37%, was worth £260mil­lion be­fore the share price was sus­pended. Mr Marsh, 44, is cred­ited, with Mr John­son, for trans­form­ing the chain from eight shops 12 years ago. It emerged he made £700,000 by selling shares three months ago.

The probe is be­ing led by the Se­ri­ous Fraud Of­fice.

Patis­serie Hold­ings said yes­ter­day: “Any fur­ther find­ings of fi­nan­cial ir­reg­u­lar­ity could re­sult in fur­ther ma­te­rial losses.”

CRI­SIS The cake chain had been on brink of col­lapse

SAVIOUR Luke John­son

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