(Bloomberg) -- Robert Bull, the owner of beleaguered caravan giant RoyaleLife that is facing £725 million ($916 million) in debt, was declared bankrupt by an English court on Friday.
It’s a stunning reversal for a man who, just seven months ago, was said to have a wealth of £1.9 billion and was the second-highest ranking new entry in The Sunday Times rich list. Judge Michael Giddins made a bankruptcy order against Bull on Friday in a hearing at County Court in Southampton, England.
A lawyer representing Bull said in court that his client was hoping to enter into an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA), a form of personal insolvency that hopes to forge an agreement with creditors to reduce debts. Under that agreement, Bull would cut the size of what he owed drastically, asking creditors to agree to receive 0.25% of what they are owed. Under the proposal, the £725 million of debt would be reduced to around £2 million.
“We don’t know of any creditors saying ‘Oh yes, 0.25 pence in the pound, that would be marvelous,’” Rory Brown, a lawyer for one of the creditors, said at the hearing. “Mr. Bull’s previous claims to be very wealthy were wrong” and he is now insolvent, said the lawyer.
The legal case is one of a slew of proceedings sparked by the collapse of RoyaleLife, a group of companies owned and controlled by Bull. The group is a provider of luxury static caravans, similar to trailer parks, in the UK and was professed to have a value of around £4 billion by Bull earlier this year. Many of the lenders to parts of RoyaleLife, including Intermediate Capital Group Plc, Avenue Capital Group Llc and Sun Communities Inc. have placed the group’s entities into insolvency proceedings and some have personal guarantees from Bull.
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Under an individual voluntary arrangement, more than three quarters of creditors by value would have to agree to the proposal. More than a quarter of creditors have said that they would vote against the IVA, a lawyer for another of the lenders told the court.
“It is not a great return to the creditors, but it is a return,” Ben Channer, a lawyer acting on behalf of Bull, said of the IVA proposal.
Bull’s legal team was asking for the judge to stay the bankruptcy order to allow for a meeting of creditors to be held on Dec. 20 to consider the IVA.
Asset Advantage Ltd, a lender based in Basingstoke, England, brought the bankruptcy petition against Bull, which was part of a class action. The £725 million is made up of 22 loan agreements with various lenders, where Bull made personal guarantees in support of the debt, according to a document submitted to the court.
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