Conjurors question Magic Circle advisers

Hobson Audley Hopkins & Wood partner Rupert Connell, who doubles up as deputy chairman of the Magic Circle, is to be quizzed along with other professional advisers on the rising costs of the conversion of the club's new headquarters.

Some members are worried that the conversion is running over budget, and a list of possible questions to put to the magicians' leaders at a meeting due to take place on 12 january has been circulated by one of its members.

Connell, an insolvency and company specialist, gives free advice to the club and helped it obtain a £475,000 grant from the National Lottery towards the renovation of the London headquarters. Then, with the authorisation of the council, he passed on the legal work for the building project to partners in his firm with expertise in the area.

The questions being asked mainly concern the appointment of and fees paid to professional advisers. The question for Connell is whether he can avoid conflicts of interest if 'reports that monies in excess of £40,000 for fees and disbursements have already been paid by the Magic Circle to… Hobson Audley Hopkins & Wood… are correct'.

Magic Circle press officer Jack Delvin said he did not know if the £40,000 figure was correct but he said council members, who all had other full-time careers, did not have the time or resources to hold a beauty parade to choose its advisers on the project.

He added: 'It was more convenient and I don't imagine it cost us more.'

He conceded that the members' concerns had been prompted by a revision upwards of the quote for the building work from £1.3m to nearly £2m.

Connell said the written questions were based almost entirely on inaccuracies.

Magic Circle member, Ian Ray, who compiled the questions and circulated them to members said they were designed merely to ensure that 'the Magic Circle's best interests were being looked at'.