Caan’s HCIG and Synergy directors settle out of court

James Caan’s Human Capital Investment Group (HCIG) and two Synergy Group directors have agreed an out-of-court settlement after a four-day case in the High Court.

Wed, 12 Jun 2013James Caan’s Human Capital Investment Group (HCIG) and two Synergy Group directors have agreed an out-of-court settlement after a four-day case in the High Court.   

During the case that lasted until lunchtime yesterday (11 June), Patrick Hanlon and Kieran Ryan claimed that Caan reneged on a promise to give each of them 20% of the business after HCIG acquired Synergy Group out of administration in 2011, forming a new company, HBHC Synergy.

HCIG is part of Caan’s Hamilton Bradshaw group of companies.

As reported yesterday Ryan, who joined Synergy Group as chief executive officer in 2009, and Hanlon, who founded the company in 1997, claimed they had entered into a legally binding agreement with HCIG. This was refuted by HCIG.

In a statement issued to Recruiter, HCIG says: “Following four days at trial, the claimants and the defendant have agreed that there was a fundamental misunderstanding between the parties, which resulted in a claim being issued against the defendant. The claimants therefore have agreed to withdraw all of their allegations and claims against the defendant and its officers.”

Recruiter asked HCIG whether the settlement included any money paid to Ryan and Hanlon. However, a spokesperson said he was “not authorised” to make further statements.

Lancasters Solicitors, based in Chiswick, who represented Hanlon and Ryan, promised to issue Recruiter with a statement. However, as went to press no statement had been received.

On the final day of proceedings in the High Court yesterday, Ryan told the court that he and Hanlon were “ambushed by James Caan” at a meeting on 15 July 2011.

Ryan told the court that he fully expected to sign a shareholder agreement with Hamilton Bradshaw giving him and Hanlon the shares they claim they were promised. “We expected to sign a shareholder agreement on 15 July, we expected to be given 40% of the business,” said Ryan.

However, Ryan continued: “We were ambushed by James Caan, who trumped up four or five excuses for not agreeing to a shareholder agreement.”

Ryan said that one of the concerns raised by Caan at the meeting was the size of payments recorded as going to individual contractors. In court the previous day, Hanlon said that Caan had described these as “unusual transactions”. Ryan told the court that this led Caan to suggest that independent accountants be appointed to investigate.  

He told the court: “We are 100% comfortable that all those contractors are real.” Asked by barrister Tom Braithwaite, counsel for HCIG, why the pair did not follow through on Caan’s request, Ryan responded that the pair questioned Caan’s motives in making the suggestion.

Earlier Ryan agreed with Braithwaite that he had understood and signed a heads of term agreement with Hamilton Bradshaw on 19 May that was subject to contract, and which stated that it was not legally binding on the parties.

“We were under the impression that we had entered into an orally binding agreement [on 18 May] and we fully expected that to be honoured,” said Ryan. “We had agreed the significant terms, and that we would agree the additional terms later, “ he added.

Braithwaite suggested to Ryan that far from reneging on a legally binding agreement, Caan and HCIG were open and upfront in making it abundantly clear that the heads of terms signed by Ryan “was not legally binding”, and that it was subject to contract.

Asked by Braithwaite, “Are they not entitled to believe that it is subject to contract, when you signed it?”, Ryan replied: “Yes.”

Ryan told the court there was “a lot of pressure and stress” on himself and Hanlon at the time, and that the staff were worried about the future of the business. “Perhaps I signed it in haste, but as far as I was concerned we had done the deal the day before,” he said.

No HCIG representatives testified on Monday or Tuesday.

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