Geoffrey Richmond declared bankrupt £3.3m debts of ex-Leeds consultant

Olwen Dudgeon CONTROVERSIAL businessman Geoffrey Richmond, the former Bradford City chairman who last week relinquished his post as an advisor to the new Leeds United board, has been declared bankrupt.

Mr Richmond was a key figure in the recent takeover of Leeds United by a consortium which also involved his son David.

A bankruptcy order was made by a judge in Leeds yesterday who refused a request for a 12-week adjournment to give Mr Richmond, 63, time to sort out payment of a 3.3m debt.

"There is no indication in any of the documents before me that even with the benefit of 12 weeks that Mr Richmond will be in a position to pay 3.3m to the petitioner," said Judge John Behrens who also refused a request for the hearing to be in private.

"The highest the matter can be put is, given the 12 weeks he might be able to formulate another offer which would amount to part payment to the liquidator," he said, adding that: "This is a case where the debt is a very substantial amount, it is a debt in excess of 3.3m."

He had been told that Mr Richmond was looking into a possible termination payment from Leeds United which could alter any offer he could make.

The judge said the liquidator acting for a company of which Mr Richmond was previously a director, made it plain he was not interested in a part offer. "There is no prospect of the payment being made in full in a reasonable time," he said and refused the application.

He made the order effective from 2.35pm. Mr Richmond was not in court.

Last night the self-made tycoon and former chairman of both Scarborough and Bradford City football clubs, said: "I will be making no statement."

The creditor petitioning for bankruptcy was Loquitur Ltd, a company now in liquidation. Loquitur became liable for a tax bill of more than 2m after the sale of Mr Richmond's Ronson lighter business in 1994.

Judge Behrens also heard the Inland Revenue had already brought proceedings against Richmond and another director, Martin Jones which led to a judgment last year in the Inland Revenue's favour in the sum of 3,348,009.11.

That High Court judge found the duo had tried to evade corporation tax liability. Mr Jones is now also bankrupt.

Stuart Frith for Loquitur Ltd, told Judge Behrens that the company's liquidator had now joined those proceedings for the purpose of enforcement.

He said the high court judge heard allegations the two directors "were guilty of misfeasance and breach of trust in relation to payment of an unlawful dividend."

Some negotiation had taken place with Mr Richmond but they had not led to a satisfactory conclusion and the petitioning creditor was now "entitled to payment of the debt in full".

Hugh Jory, for Richmond, said his employment with Leeds United had only recently been terminated "and there are now discussions about the package that will ensue from that".

He said there was also always interest from third parties wanting to avail themselves of Mr Richmond's football connections. He asked for time to investigate those issues and help Mr Richmond avoid bankruptcy.

Mr Frith opposed the adjournment saying the amount of time Mr Richmond was employed at Leeds United before his dismissal was unlikely to significantly pay off the debt.

Refusing an adjournment, Judge Behrens said he had studied financial information prepared by another defence barrister, Louis Doyle which showed the "substantial decline in Mr Richmond's finances in recent years".

After Richmond had transferred his shares in Bradford City Football Club for 1, he had given guarantees for that club of 12m to 13m "therefore his liabilities are in the region of 15m-16m".

Mr Richmond had apparently made an offer last year to pay 600,000 over five years which was not accepted and in April this year he offered 150,000 and 90 per cent of his earnings over five years which was also rejected.

An official statement from Leeds United last week said Mr Richmond was relinquishing his position of unpaid football advisor due to "personal and health" reasons but the Yorkshire Post understood his high profile comments had already upset some directors.

Bankruptcy means his finances are now carefully examined, he cannot act as a company director without court permission or obtain credit of 250 or more without disclosing his status.