Forsters ‘reckless’ over Craven Cottage advice

A legal battle over the sale of Fulham football ground Craven Cottage has seen Forsters senior partner Sophie Hamilton chided by a High Court judge, and has also revealed that the firm has lost the bulk of its work for property developer client Crown Dilmun.

Crown Dilmun v Nicholas Sutton and Fulham River Projects (FRP) revolves around the £50m sale of Craven Cottage. Crown Dilmun claimed that former Fulham director Sutton had taken the opportunity to purchase the ground for redevelopment for himself, thereby breaching his fiduciary duty to his former employer.

Hamilton advised Sutton on the purchase, and is also the sole director of the second defendant FRP, the vehicle used to purchase the ground.

Although Mr Justice Peter Smith ruled that Forsters had initially been misled by Sutton, he also said that Hamilton had been “reckless” in continuing to advise him. Judge Smith also said that she had then sought to protect her position in a self-serving way.

The bulk of Crown Dilmun’s work is now being handled by Wedlake Bell, after it hired former Forsters partner Kim Lalli last year. Forsters retains some construction and residential development work.

Forsters managing partner Paul Roberts said that the firm was “surprised and disappointed by some of the judge’s comments”, in which neither Forsters nor Hamilton were parties.

Sutton, who the court found had acted dishonestly, has not ruled out an appeal, but is waiting until after a costs hearing to make a decision. FRP is understood to be seeking leave to appeal.

Nabarros also left red-faced in Crown Dilmun v Sutton
While Forsters got a rap over the knuckles in Crown Dilmun v Nicholas Sutton, the judgment also revealed a rather embarrassing incident for Nabarro Nathanson, which was acting for the bank financing Sutton’s bid.

“They [Nabarro Nathanson] had left some confidential documents relating to the [the possible sale of Craven Cottage to Sutton] in a taxi. The taxi driver had discovered them, saw the reference to Mr Al-Fayed and handed the confidential documents about the purchaser’s financing proposals to the seller. Not surprisingly, Mr Sutton was concerned.”

It is understood that while the client is still with Nabarros, the partner involved is not.