Amanda Staveley in court over loan dispute with Greek shipping tycoon

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Lawyers for Newcastle United football club director Amanda Staveley asked a High Court judge on Wednesday to set aside a Greek shipping magnate’s multimillion-pound demand against her as an “abuse of process”.

Staveley’s barrister told the court that a statutory demand that Victor Restis had made against her over claims she owed him about £36mn was “remarkable”, as part of an attempt to block him from pushing her into bankruptcy.

The courtroom battle pits one of the highest profile figures in UK sports finance, who helped broker the £300mn purchase of Newcastle in 2021 on behalf of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, against a tycoon who has been a leading figure in the shipping industry for about two decades.

Staveley did not address the court on Wednesday morning but her lawyer Ted Loveday said the dispute had its origins in a £10mn investment Restis made in 2008, adding he had issued a formal demand in May for about £36mn from her.

In written arguments, Loveday said the dispute should be resolved through arbitration and Staveley had in any event “substantial grounds for denying liability”. The financier contends that the funds were advanced to her vehicle PCP rather than to her personally, but Restis disputes this.

Loveday said PCP had already made a series of repayments to Restis, including a total of £5.2mn between May 2009 and June 2010. According to her legal filing, the sum sought by Restis includes more than £30mn in interest.

Loveday told the court that the “stratospheric” interest demands demonstrated the “unreasonableness of his [Restis’s] approach”. He added there was also “a degree of ambiguity” about whether the sums originally advanced were in fact a loan or “some other form of investment”.

In written arguments prepared for the hearing, Loveday said “bankruptcy is not a mechanism to collect disputed debts, or to circumvent arbitration agreements”, alleging that Restis’s demand was “an abuse of process”.

Staveley has asked the High Court to set aside the statutory demand, which is a formal ultimatum for payment of a debt within 21 days. If unpaid, or not set aside by judges, it can be used to petition the court for a bankruptcy order.

In addition, Restis has also filed a winding up petition against PCP.

Raquel Agnello KC, acting for Restis, said both PCP and Staveley were “jointly and severally liable for the sums claimed”. In written arguments she said: “It is certainly the case that a loan was made and the balance remains unpaid.”

Agnello added that Staveley was “an extremely experienced international businesswoman”.

“The debtor is inviting the court to determine there is a dispute on substantial grounds in relation to her ability to deal with an unpaid loan and negotiation seeking additional time to pay. This is in many respects simply inherently implausible,” she said.

Staveley came to public prominence during the financial crisis when she facilitated the purchase of Manchester City by Abu Dhabi royal Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

She then helped the UK bank Barclays secure investment from Abu Dhabi as part of an emergency cash call. In recent years, Staveley unsuccessfully pursued litigation against Barclays in relation to the deal.

Staveley has a minority stake in Newcastle, whose performance last season took the club back into the Champions League for the first time in 20 years. However, Newcastle have struggled to maintain form and currently sit 10th in the Premier League table.

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