March 27, 2012 8:05 pm

Potential Coroin buyers revealed to court

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Robert Tchenguiz, the property entrepreneur and a group of Malaysian investors as well as the Qatari royal family were among the parties interested in buying all or part of Coroin, the company which controls three of London’s most exclusive hotels, according to court documents.

The documents were disclosed in the High Court battle in which Patrick McKillen, the Irish property entrepreneur, is suing the billionaire Barclay brothers and their companies over control of Coroin. Mr McKillen owns 36 per cent of Coroin and is fighting attempts by the Barclays to control the group, which owns Claridge’s, the Connaught and the Berkeley hotels.

Richard Faber, director of Ellerman Investments, a company owned by the trustees of the Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay family settlements, said in his witness statement that the Coroin deal “has not been a run-of-the-mill transaction for the group,” and named other parties which had shown interest in the business.

In the High Court on Tuesday, Philip Marshall QC, representing Mr McKillen, put it to Mr Faber, who was a board director of Coroin for much of 2011, that Sir David Barclay “would tell you what he wanted to have done and you would carry it out”.

Mr Marshall asked Mr Faber why Sir David Barclay was not giving evidence in the trial. Mr Faber replied that Sir David was “not well at all” and his health “comes and goes.”

The court heard that the advice given in 2011 by lawyers to the Coroin board which was to appoint Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, to help advise on the refinancing of £600m of Coroin’s debt was contrary to the view held by Sir David Barclay.

“You had got a conflict between the advice you got from your lawyers and what Sir David wants,” Mr Marshall told Mr Faber, adding, you “would not dare go against the wishes of Sir David Barclay”.

Mr Faber told the court that he had agreed with Sir David that it was “futile” to bring in Goldman to help refinance Coroin’s £600m loan obligation in the space of a month.

“The Barclay brothers have had a very heavy involvement in the Coroin saga have they not,” Mr Marshall put it to Mr Faber.

Mr Faber, who was married to the daughter of Sir Frederick Barclay, said in his witness statement that the Barclay brothers had more involvement in Coroin than they would in most business matters of the group, partly due to the then illness of Aidan Barclay, the son of Sir David, who chairs Ellerman. This situation gave Sir David in particular “greater involvement than he would otherwise have had,” Mr Faber said.

Mr Faber told the court: “Sir David, I believe, is 78 years old and does not wish to necessarily have a hand in day-to-day matters but I’d reiterate that the second half of 2011 was an extraordinary odd period for us because Aidan Barclay was missing.”

He claimed in his witness statement that Patrick McKillen “has behaved very badly”, “reneging on the deal with the Qataris and making entirely unreasonable demands without doing anything to solve Coroin’s problems”.

The case continues.

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