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The founder of a well-known coffee chain could be made bankrupt following a family row sparked by the death of his brother.
Alistair McCallum-Toppin co-launched the AMT coffee chain alongside his brothers Allan and Angus 27 years ago, with the trio progressing from a single cart in Oxford to a nationwide chain with an annual turnover in excess of £20m per year.
The brothers were equal partners in the business until 2006, when Angus died from cancer at the age of 45. Shortly after this, the family descended into a state of “dysfunctional… squabbling” the High Court heard this week.
At an initial hearing last year the surviving brothers were ordered to pay Angus’ widow, Lucy, and the couple’s two children for their interest in the coffee company in a settlement that could have amounted to £7m.
The pair were supposed to make an interim payment of £1.5 million by March 2019. However, in July, Lucy launched a bankruptcy petition against Alistair, AMT’s managing director, because the money had not been paid.
Judge Daniel Schaffer dismissed Alistair’s objections to the petition, leaving him facing a bankruptcy order unless he pays, The Times reports.
In the ruling, Judge Schaffer stated that Alistair had made “considerable efforts” to make the payment, but “appears unable to discharge the petition debt”.
At the original hearing in 2019, the court heard that in the years between Angus’ death and 2015, the other brothers took more than £1m in “entirely informal” directors’ loans, creating “a significant credit risk for the company”. At the same time, they failed to make any payments to Lucy and the children after 2008.
Judge Schaffer said he would “give the debtor the opportunity to seek a deferral of that order on an application to adjourn the petition, to facilitate payment of the petition debt”.