Architect will seek to make billionaire businessman liable if his companies fail to pay £500,000
Architect Aukett Fitzroy Robinson will pursue property tycoon Simon Halabi personally if his companies fail to pay it £500,000 in legal costs.
Two Halabi companies, Good Start and Anglo Swiss Holdings, have until today to make an interim payment of £250,000, after losing a court battle with Aukett over three refurbishment jobs. If the cash fails to appear, the £15m-turnover architect has said it will go after Halabi himself.
Rupert Choat, a construction partner at law firm CMS Cameron McKenna, said individuals could be pursued in this way under exceptional circumstances. He said: “Someone closely connected with a party ordered to pay costs, say a controlling director who ran the case for his own ends, may be ordered to pay those costs.”
Aukett declined to comment this week on whether it thought Halabi would pay but one source close to the situation said: “The company is assuming this may have to go all the way.”
The dispute began last year when Aukett launched legal proceedings against Halabi’s firms, claiming £1.6m in unpaid fees for work on Mentmore Towers in Buckinghamshire and two properties in the West End.
A director who ran the case for his own ends may be ordered to pay the costs
Rupert Choat, lawyer
Halabi issued a counterclaim that Aukett had failed to inform him of the departure of Jeremy Blake, the project architect on the jobs, for eight months after he left.
As well as £500,000 in costs, the judge ruled Halabi should pay Aukett £871,900 in fees. If unpaid, the money will be recouped when the properties are sold. One of the West End properties, the former In & Out Club, is on the market with a reported price tag of £250m after Halabi’s plans for a super-rich club on the site were abandoned.
During the trial, Halabi, a Syrian-born billionaire, refused to settle the case for £700,000, despite advice from one of his own experts. The judge said such conduct “rebounded to [Halabi’s] detriment”.
After Aukett’s full-year results last week, chief executive Nicholas Thompson described the case as “a distraction” and called it “an unfortunate consequence of the decline in the property market”.