Construction group confirms that it took a dividend out of Bickerton seven months before collapse.
more details HAVE come to light of the events leading up to the shock collapse of Bickerton Construction at the end of last year. It has emerged this week that Artisan group, which sold Bickerton seven months before it failed, took £1.4m out of the company as part of that deal.

The two men involved in the transaction were Stephen Dean, chairman of Artisan, and John Aviss, who bought Bickerton and a second firm, Driver Construction, through his Infiniteland holding company.

An Artisan insider said Driver and Bickerton's net asset values were each reduced by about £1.4m before the sales. He added that both were carried out legitimately.

Dean confirmed that Artisan had taken money out of Bickerton, but refused to say how much.

Aviss was unavailable for comment.

It was also revealed this week that two projects that Bickerton was undertaking for Artisan ran into difficulties after the sale. One was a job in Watford, where Artisan did not pay it the full amount owed. The other was an £8m refurbishment project at the Old Glasshouse building close to Bickerton's offices in St Albans. This was part of Bickerton's future order book but was stopped after the deal was signed.

Artisan finance director Chris Musselle denied that Bickerton's collapse was caused by the payment dispute and the lost contract. He said: "They did not contribute to the downfall of Bickerton in a significant way."

A second strand to the relationship between Dean and Aviss involves Mea Corporation, an M&E engineer owned by Aviss that is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office.

The original agreement between the two was that Bickerton and Driver would be bought by Mea. This fell through after Mea went into administration, but Dean said Aviss had given him a binding guarantee that he would buy the companies, so had to go through with the deal.

In a separate development it has emerged that Dean had a plan to float Mea before it was liquidated, through a holding company. Dean subsequently pulled out of the deal. He said: "It did not get past first base."

Who’s who in the Bickerton story

Bickerton Construction
Family firm set up in 1930 that became one of Hertfordshire’s best known builders. Acquired by Artisan in 2000. Artisan
AIM-listed construction group headed by Stephen Dean. The firm has focused on housebuilding and property development since selling Bickerton last June. Mea Corporation
M&E group owned by John Aviss that bought firms including M&E contractors CJ Bartley and Rotrax. Went into liquidation at the end of October. The Serious Fraud Office is now investigating it. Infiniteland
Holding company created by Aviss to acquire Bickerton and Driver Construction.