Justice of the lease

What is it with Hammonds and convoluted partner disputes?

Just as the dust settles on one money-related argument (remember the group of former partners that, apart from one, settled with the firm after refusing to pay back overdrawings?), it has become embroiled in another.

As our front page story details, Hammonds is trying to hold the partners of Hammonds Direct to account for the lease on the Bradford building the volume business operated from. The problem is that Hammonds never actually completed a sub-lease on the property, which appears careless to say the least. But given that more than 20 Hammonds Direct partners still work at the firm, things could get a little bit tricky in the partner dining room over the next few weeks.

Perhaps as an attempt to keep awkward silences to a minimum, the firm is seeking an amicable ­resolution, and is proposing mediation rather than court action as a last resort.

But it doesn’t look as if the Hammonds Direct partners are going to give in without a fight. As David Armitage, a partner at the firm and a ­member of the Hammonds Direct partnership committee, wrote to the Hammonds Direct partners last week: “Partners should rest assured that our position will be explored and maintained vigorously; no liability will be admitted and no steps will be taken that knowingly prejudice the position of Hammonds Direct partners without consultation.”

Remember that all but one of the Hammonds Direct partners have already contributed to a £2.29m cash call by that business. That’s an average of £56,000 each.

Okay, so that call wasn’t made by Hammonds, but any demands for money by the national firm will be unwelcome.Especially when they come from a landlord that couldn’t get its act together to draw up a lease which would have made its demands seem fair. And even more so if, as in the cases of Mark Hilton, Simon Palmer and Maria Danilunas, you recently repaid ­overdrawn profits to that landlord after a High Court showdown. Oh to have been a fly on the wall when David Jones, who has yet to settle in the profit dispute, received his letter last week.

Hammonds really knows how to pick its fights.
#margaret.taylor@thelawyer.com