TWO high-profile club bosses have been ordered to pay more than £730,000 to a former business partner.
wThe ruling by a High Court judge brings to an end a three-year legal battle against Tony Griffiths and Eric Robson by investor Kevin Gettins.
Flamboyant Mr Griffiths, 39, who has appeared on Channel Four show Come Dine With Me, must now hand over £734,130 for shares owned by Mr Gettins in Wylam Development Limited. His co-director Eric Robson, who is also liable for the pay out, did not attend the hearing on grounds of ill-health.
Mr Griffiths, who recently became a Lord after wife Lorraine bought him the title, told the Echo he plans to appeal against the decision.
The dispute centred around the Glass Spider bar in Sunderland city centre, which Mr Gettins, 57, invested £250,000 in as a loan and shares.
Up until October 2007, Mr Gettins and the two other co-directors received weekly share pay outs of around £1,500.
But a six-day hearing at Leeds Combined Court heard that the cash stopped and Mr Gettins was effectively shut out from the business after the partners fell out in 2007.
Mr Griffiths, known as “Chocolate”, offered to buy Mr Gettins’ shares for £500,000 - but Mr Gettins turned down the offer, saying he wanted the bar valued.
The court was told that after the payment was turned down, locks at the Glass Spider were changed.
Earlier in the hearing Mr Griffiths valued Mr Gettins’ stake in the group at £150,000, labelled him a sleeping partner and said he withdrew more from the company than he was entitled to do and eventually excluded himself by setting up a rival bar, called Oslo - also in Sunderland city centre.
His Honour Judge Roger Kaye QC yesterday (FRI).ordered Mr Griffiths and Mr Robson hand over the cash within 14 days of the shares being transferred and also gave them 14 days to pay £77,000 in court costs.
A £80,000 payment lodged with the court by the pair in June last year must also be paid out immediately.
The judge added that information had to be “wrung” from Mr Griffiths, “like the proverbial blood out of a stone”.
“It is not entirely surprising that he disappeared after reading the judgement,” he said.
Speaking after the hearing, Mr Gettins, a private landlord, said he had been through “hell”.
“I am really over the moon. It has been three years of hell.
“My legal bills have come to £200,000. I’ve actually lost 2st in weight since this all started and it has really affected my health, and my wife Muriel is the same, she has lost 2st in weight.
“It has been a very stressful time.”
Mr Griffiths has said that he intends to appeal the judge’s decision.
He said: “We obviously don’t agree with decision at all and are going to take legal advice now and appeal the decision and see where it takes us, but he is definitely owed money.
“The business is fine because it a civil claim - it does not impact on the business.”