Roadchef staff win 17-year battle over share options

Roadchef-sign-2015

Hundreds of Roadchef employees are set to receive a pay-out after settling a 17-year dispute over lost share options.

The long-running dispute was between Roadchef Employee Benefits Trustees (REBTL) on behalf of former and current members of staff and its former owner Timothy Ingram Hill, in relation to how the motorway-catering firm’s shares were allocated to staff.

Some 20% of shares were allocated to staff by managing director Patrick Gee, who intended to launch an employee share ownership plan (Esop), similar to that offered by the John Lewis Partnership, however, he died a few months later before the scheme was complete

The REBTL was set up in 1986 by Gee.

Had the scheme been able to operate as it should, more than 600 employees could have received a five-figure payout when the organisation was sold.

Instead, the scheme was passed onto Gee’s successor Ingram Hill, who was accused of improperly acquiring more than 22 million worth of shares from the trust, from which he profited when Roadchef was sold in 1998.

In January 2014, the High Court ruled that Ingram Hill had breached his fiduciary duty to Roadchef employees, but there was no suggestion he acted illegally.

The shares purchased by Ingram Hill, were declared void, and shares should have been available to Roadcheff staff through the Esop.

In summer 2014, there were settlement negotiations between the REBTL and Ingram Hill. In November 2014, the High Court approved settlement terms and closed the legal process, leaving employees with the prospect of redress after many years.

The current owners of Roadchef had no involvement in the transaction and have assisted REBTL and its lawyers in pursuing this matter for the benefit of the trust’s beneficiaries.

Chris Nott, managing partner at Capital Law, which has worked on the Roadchef case for two decades, said: “We’ve been told numerous times over the past 20 years that the case was ‘undoable’ but we believed in it. It’ll be pleasing to the thousands of people who stand to benefit that our persistence has paid off.”

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Andrew Brown, partner at Capital Law, added: “The terms of the settlement remain confidential, but years of complex and hard-fought litigation have been brought to an end by considerable co-operation between the trustees, the Ingram Hills, and their respective legal teams. 

“The trustees will now need to undertake negotiations with HM Revenue and Customs and other parties to determine precisely how much money will be available for distribution. They will continue to work to administer the trust as swiftly as possible so that the beneficiaries can receive their respective share without further undue delay.”