THE owner of The George in Yarmouth's bid to recoup tens of thousands of pounds from former business partners has ended in him having to pay a £35,000 court bill.

Swindon County Court heard Howard Spooner had gone into business with businessman Charles “Brook” Johnson and his wife Sally Faber Johnson, a former weather presenter, in early 2019.

Mr Spooner, 50 – who previously ran London clubs with Prince Harry’s childhood friend Guy Pelly – and Mr Johnson, 73, had agreed to be equal partners in the prestigious 17-bedroom Yarmouth hotel.

Mr Spooner’s barrister, Josh Lewison, said the men agreed Johnson would invest £150,000, with £65,000 paid immediately and the remaining £85,000 invested as and when it was needed.

That account was disputed by the Johnsons, with Mrs Johnson saying she had bought furniture with the £85,000 which had been loaned to the hotel.

The George’s website said Mrs Johnson oversaw an extensive refurbishment of the hotel, including a new Italian-inspired beachfront garden.

Companies House records show Mr Johnson was appointed as a director of the hotel’s parent company Quay Street Ltd on March 4 last year, with Mrs Johnson and Mr Spooner registered as those with significant control.

By October the relationship between Mr Spooner and the Johnsons had soured.

Emma Williams, for Mrs Johnson, alleged Mr Spooner had tried to exclude Mr Johnson from the management of the company and transfer £100,000 out of the hotel company bank account into the account of a firm controlled by him alone.

The Johnsons’ solicitors sent Mr Spooner a pre-action letter, and Mr Spooner issued two formal statutory demands for payment of money he said was owed.

The Johnsons’ lawyers prepared to fight both demands, but instead, last Thursday – five days before the hearing – Mr Spooner withdrew the demands.

The hearing on Tuesday was to decide an application made by the Johnsons’ barrister that Mr Spooner pay the couple’s legal costs.

Ms Williams, for the couple, argued that Mr Spooner had acted improperly in making the demands for payment.

Josh Lewison, for Mr Spooner, said his client had been trying to do his best for the company in trying to collect what he saw as a debt owed.

The money would ensure the hotel could come out of the lockdown period in a comparative financial good health.

Deputy District Judge Napier acknowledged he was not being asked to rule on whether the statutory demands should be set aside. But he said in his view Mr Spooner had used the statutory demand process improperly and there were “very serious irregularities” in the administration of the company.

He ruled Mr Spooner should pay a contribution to the Johnsons’ legal costs of £35,000.

The hotel reopens after coronavirus lockdown, on Monday, July 6.