Most of the business meetings seem to have taken place in The Rosemary Branch. This fact did not help the parties' respective understandings of what had happened. When the whole story ended up in court, which of course it did, the judge was driven to remark that their enthusiasm for the scheme had been "reinforced by liquid refreshment", and thus their recollections were "hazy".
The story started when Mr King told his friend Mr Donald (in the pub) that he wanted to develop his property, the former The Princess Alice. He wanted to turn it into a block of apartments, with a studio for himself. Mr Donald said he would act as the architect. The question of payment was discussed in rather vague terms. Mr Donald said he would usually charge something over £100,000 and when Mr King went to the bank to talk about finance, a figure of £125,000 was included for architect's fees, but there was also talk of Mr Donald being remunerated by taking one of the apartments.
Mr Donald produced designs for the project. They were impressive. Very impressive. So impressive that Mr King could not afford them. The layouts were complex and varied from floor to floor with substantial steelwork required for support. There was a lot of expensive glazing, and there were huge figures of naked men to be etched on the exterior by a special process developed for a Herzog and de Meuron library in Germany.
Mr King decided that enough was enough and ended the arrangement. Mr Donald sued for damages for repudiation of contract. He wanted £125,000 less £10,000, which he said would have been the cost of completing his work. Alternatively, he said he would accept the value of a one-bedroom flat.
Mr King said that there wasn't any contract, and that therefore he couldn't have repudiated it.
Mr Donald had thought of that one, and said that if there was no contract, he should be paid a quantum meruit – the value of services rendered. Mr King said that the services were not of much value, because he couldn't afford to build to the designs.
And the mysterious cheque for £47,000? The three bottles of wine meant that the story about that was a bit confused
Then Mr King had a go at Mr Donald. He alleged negligence, saying that he had lost money because of the delay caused by his former friend's extravagance.
Then there was the interesting matter of a cheque for £47,000 given by Mr King to Mr Donald – once again in the pub, and after three bottles of wine. It was stopped before it was presented, and Mr Donald sued for the value.
This Eastenders storyline found its way to Judge Seymour in the Technology and Construction Court in July, and resulted in more than 60 closely typed pages of judgment. The judge decided that there had been no contract. He decided that the arrangements about fees had been left vague, in part because of "the milieu in which most of the discussions seem to have taken place". The whole project had been a speculative venture in which the architect hoped to share in eventual financial success. The claim for quantum meruit failed as well, as Mr Donald had accepted the risk of the scheme not proceeding.
Mr King fared no better with his damages claim.
Mr Donald had not been negligent, just extravagant. Anyway, Mr King had not suffered a loss that he could properly explain in court.
And the mysterious cheque for £47,000? The three bottles of wine meant that the story here was a bit confused, but the judge decided that it was a loan and that Mr King was within his rights to stop it.
John Redmond is head of construction at solicitor Osborne Clarke in Bristol.