'Gipsy Joe' faces financial ruin in court

Entertainer Joe Longthorne is being taken to court in an attempt to force him to declare bankruptcy. Roger Pearson reports.

Slough County Court looks set to become the scene for TV favourite Joe Longthorne's financial downfall later this year.

Richard Segal, the supervisor of a £1m bankruptcy petition which Longthorne originally warded off in 1996 by entering into a voluntary arrangement, is now taking him back to court seeking a bankruptcy order on the basis that Longthorne has not kept up payments under the arrangement.

Segal has instructed insolvency specialist Paul Gordon-Saker, a Stephenson Harwood partner, to act in the matter. The main creditor in the petition against the colourful 44 year-old, who was once rated as one of the UK's highest paid entertainers, is the Inland Revenue. His ex-manager Bridie Reid is another. Reid is said to be owed more than £100,000.

When the initial bankruptcy moves were made against him Longthorne vowed to clear his debts.

He said at the time: "I could have gone bankrupt but that's not my style. I am a fighter."

But it now looks as if bankruptcy is the only solution. This would involve the sale of Longthorne's £750,000 six-bedroom house in the stockbroker belt at Maidenhead and a fleet of cars.

His current manager Tony Clayman says that although Longthorne has tried to meet his debts by complying with the voluntary arrangement, he has been unable to keep abreast of the repayments.

Clayman is on record as saying: "He accepts that he is going to be declared bankrupt."

But bankruptcy is unlikely to result in Longthorne, who got his first major show business break through the ITV programme Search For A Star, disappearing from the limelight. He has pledged to carry on working and has a series of live shows lined up.

Longthorne, a one time rag-and-bone man, who is nicknamed "Gipsy Joe" and "the human jukebox", owes a great deal of his popularity to his ability to impersonate singers such as Frank Sinatra, Shirley Bassey and country music star Willie Nelson.

The case has been set for 3 April.