Newcastle United co-owner faces paying £3.4m to Greek businessman

Amanda Staveley said she plans to appeal the High Court judge’s decision.

Amanda Staveley arriving at London’s Rolls Building earlier in March
Amanda Staveley arriving at London’s Rolls Building earlier in March (Lucy North/PA)

Newcastle United co-owner Amanda Staveley faces having to pay a Greek shipping magnate more than £3 million after a High Court legal battle.

Ms Staveley had been issued with a bankruptcy petition by businessman Victor Restis, who claimed she was liable to pay him £3.4 million owed from an investment he made in her business ventures.

The businesswoman had applied to the High Court to throw out Mr Restis’ application, with her lawyers telling a hearing earlier in March that she had “substantial ground for denying liability” and the dispute should be settled out of court.

In a judgment on Monday, Deputy Insolvency and Companies Court Judge Daniel Schaffer dismissed her bid, ruling the dispute should be dealt with in court and that Ms Staveley was liable to pay the sum.

Reading out his judgment at London’s Rolls Building, he said: “The demand totalling £3.4 million is sound.”

Mr Restis has until April 22 to issue a bankruptcy petition following the decision, unless Ms Staveley pays the money owed before that date.

Ted Loveday, representing Ms Staveley, previously told the court in written submissions that it was “common ground” that Mr Restis had made a £10 million investment in Ms Staveley’s business ventures in 2008.

He said there was “plainly a degree of ambiguity about whether this was a loan or some other form of investment”.

Mr Restis initially issued a statutory demand in May 2023 for a total of £36.8 million, which included the outstanding loan sum of £3.4 million and “exorbitant” interest of £31.3 million, Mr Loveday said.

The tycoon’s barristers later dropped their claims for the interest and legal costs, instead claiming only the loan’s outstanding balance.

Mr Loveday said the parties entered an agreement in May 2016 where they agreed to submit their disputes to arbitration, that Ms Staveley was not personally liable and that her company PCP Capital Partners would pay.

But the lawyer said his client was told to sign other documents between 2017 and 2021 which ultimately said Ms Staveley was personally liable and incrementally topped up the liability.

He claimed that these “instruments” were “procured by duress, undue influence and/or misrepresentation”, and that Ms Staveley felt intimidated into signing them.

However, the judge said Ms Staveley’s liability was “proved conclusively” in the documents and that it “beggars belief” she did not understand she was liable, adding the claim “ventures into the realm of fantasy and is completely implausible”.

The judge also said there was “no evidence” that Ms Staveley was under duress from Mr Restis or his lawyers.

He said: “There were clearly commercial pressures on Ms Staveley, but Mr Restis was perfectly entitled to press for payment.”

Amanda Staveley claimed her diagnosis of Huntingdon’s disease affected her judgment when signing agreements
Amanda Staveley claimed her diagnosis of Huntingdon’s disease affected her judgment when signing agreements (Lucy North/PA)

“Was there any illegitimate pressure? In my judgment, on the facts of this case, no,” he continued.

He said messages between the pair indicated a “warm business relationship” which “cannot be construed in any way, fashion or form to support a claim of unlawful distress”.

In her written arguments, Raquel Agnello KC, representing Mr Restis, said Ms Staveley was sent documents, given time to look over them and given opportunities to make revisions before she signed them, including one in 2021 which superseded previous agreements and made Ms Staveley liable.

Ms Agnello told the court there was “a real lack of reality” in the claims of unlawful conduct and that Ms Staveley relied on “bare assertions” which were “inherently implausible”.

The judge also said Ms Staveley, who he described as an “astute businesswoman”, had “singularly failed” to show her judgment was unduly influenced by her diagnosis of Huntingdon’s disease when signing the documents.

He deemed the claims, as well as those of being placed under duress, were “unsustainable” and had a “complete lack of credibility”.

Ms Staveley, who headed a Saudi-backed consortium that took over Newcastle United in 2021, did not attend court on Monday.

Following the decision, a spokesperson for her said: “Amanda Staveley notes the ruling of the High Court today on her application to have set aside a statutory demand brought by Victor Restis.

“Ms Staveley notes and welcomes that the ruling made a £33 million reduction in the claim to principal only with no interest.

“Nevertheless, Ms Staveley continues to dispute personal liability and intends to lodge an appeal.”

A spokesperson for Mr Restis’ lawyers said they were “delighted” with the ruling.

They said: “The debt has been due from Ms Staveley since 2008.

“This decision means that unless Ms Staveley or PCP Capital Partners LLP, now known as Apollo Belvedere Services LLP, pay the debt of at least £3.4 million by the deadline of April 22 2024, Ms Staveley will face bankruptcy and Apollo Belvedere Services LLP… will be wound up by the court.

“In addition, Mr Restis has other financial claims against Ms Staveley for significant interest and legal costs which he will also be pursuing promptly.”