Conran wins court battle with “restaurant king” Des Gunewardena

Posted: November 23, 2016

Conran Holdings Limited, the company which holds most of Sir Terence Conran’s business interests, has successfully defended a High Court claim brought by former director and shareholder Des Gunewardena.

Mr Gunewardena left Conran in 2013 following his management buyout of the Conran restaurant business.  Under the company’s constitution, Mr Gunewardena was obliged to sell his shares in the company on leaving, with the price to be calculated by a pre-agreed mechanism.

Mr Gunewardena complained that a different method should apply to the calculation of his exit price and that he should have been paid significantly more – some £3 million.

The court comprehensively vindicated the company’s view that it had acted fully in accordance with its own constitution and, more specifically, that those terms were long understood, and in fact introduced, by Mr Gunewardena.

Referring to the evidence given by Mr Gunewardena at trial, the judge found that:

“The quality of [Mr Gunewardena’s] evidence was often that of litigation wishful thinking – at best he has convinced himself that things had happened (or did not happen) because that is necessary for his case.  In some instances I fear he was saying things that he knew to be untrue.”

In contrast, the evidence given by Conran’s witnesses, including Sir Terence himself and family shareholders, was found by the judge to be reliable and credible.

The Simkins team included Managing Partner Euan Lawson, Disputes Partner Tom Iverson and Trainee Solicitor Rose Croshaw.  Simkins instructed Philip Jones QC of Serle Court.

Mr Gunewardena was represented by Olswang, who instructed Matthew Collings QC‎ of Maitland Chambers.