Firms warm up for Gadget Shop battle

Bevan Brittan, Hammonds and McGrigors will be in court this week to argue on behalf of the various owners of the collapsed Gadget Shop, one of the most highly-charged cases of the year.

The amount of the claim is understood to be in excess of £100m. The Gadget Shop was put into administration in March this year, with Lawrence Graham advising administrators PKF, but the key to the dispute is the argument over the ownership of greetings card chain Birthdays.

McGrigors is defending Gadget Shop majority shareholders Tom Hunter and Jim McMahon, owners of private equity house West Coast Capital, against claims brought by fellow investors John Wood and Peter Wilkinson. Bevan Brittan is acting for Chris Gorman, another shareholder, who also faces the claims.

Freeserve creator Wilkinson and UBS trader Wood say that they were entitled to a share of the business when Hunter and Gorman acquired Birthdays. The chain was later sold to Clinton Cards at a loss.

Hunter and Gorman say that they bought Birthdays privately, instead of using the Gadget Shop as a vehicle for the acquisition.

The significance of the case is underlined by the calibre of the counsel brought on board. Hammonds’ partner Simon Miller is instructing 3/4 South Square insolvency star Michael Crystal QC for Wilkinson and Wood. Katharine Davies of McGrigors has turned to One Essex Court head Lord Grabiner QC, while Bevan Brittan’s Tim Boyce has instructed John McCaughrean QC, also of One Essex Court.

The case is set down to begin today (31 October) for three weeks.