Angus McCallum-Toppin’s widow could destroy the AMT coffee chain as the remaining partners fail to meet their financial obligations to her.
AMT is a coffee company established in 1993 by Alexander and his sons Angus, Alistair and Allan. From a coffee cart outside Oxford’s Westgate shopping center, their empire grew and they can now be found in several locations across the UK and Ireland.
Following the death of their father in 2001, ownership of the company was divided into seven. Each son had two shares, while their mother, Anna, had one.
In 2005, the brothers signed an agreement that ensured that the profits made by the company were shared equally.
Sadly, in 2006, Angus passed away after a battle with cancer. As a result, his two sevenths in the business went into his estate for the benefit of his widow Lucy and his two children.
However, the family fell apart in “dysfunctional feuds” and Lucy was never paid her fair share, after being labeled a gold digger by Alistair.
A High Court battle ordered Alistair and Allan to buy Lucy and her children from the business. A payment which lawyers say could be worth up to £ 7million.
In March 2019, the brothers were ordered to make an interim payment of £ 1.5million, but that never materialized.
As a result, Lucy brought a bankruptcy petition in the High Court which targeted the CEO of the company, Alistair.
The court ruled in her favor because she and her children had not met the financial needs as the two brothers used the business as their own personal “piggy bank”.
During the hearing it was revealed that between the year Angus died and 2015, the brothers withdrew over £ 1million between them in loans to directors. These loans were in turn used for personal expenses which included home improvements.
On this case, the judge declared that it was “entirely informal” and created “a significant credit risk for the company”.
Judge Daniel Schaffer said:
“It is clear that during the time they controlled the business after Angus’ death, Allan and Alistair used the business as a piggy bank to carry out high level personal expenses on their behalf.
“After Angus passed away, his estate was largely ignored and his widow Lucy ruled out. They ignored Lucy’s existence as best they could and went their own way.
He said Alistair had “refused to treat the estate holding the Angus shares in the same way he would have viewed Angus himself.”
“Also, there is evidence that he viewed Lucy as a gold digger… I accept that he did not want to declare any dividends that would benefit him.
” The driving […] of the respondents left […] get rich at the expense of the company.
“There were endless quarrels between Alistair and Allan then, mediated, albeit reluctantly, by their mother.
“No company run on commercial principles would have organized director compensation on such chaotic lines.”
Alistair tried to refute the bankruptcy case by protesting that the £ 1.5million payment was made to Lucy as administrator of the Angus McCallum-Toppin Will Trust, not as executor of the estate of Angus.
Alistair claimed that no debt was owed to the trustees so that the bankruptcy application could be dropped.
These protests were ignored by the judge who said:
“In light of the conclusions I have reached in dismissing all of the objections raised to the petition, a bankruptcy order would normally be made at the time of judgment.
“I will give the debtor the possibility of requesting the postponement of this order on a request for adjournment of the petition, in order to facilitate the payment of the debt of the petition. “