Former executive chairman of Patisserie Holdings, the listed vehicle for collapsed UK café chain Patisserie Valerie, Luke Johnson has taken aim at the firm’s auditor Grant Thornton in his column in UK newspaper The Sunday Times. He wrote: “…having a top-six firm seemed to me a worthwhile investment – even if the fees were higher.
“One of the most astonishing aspects of the entire episode is the way in which it seems such an eminent firm had the wool pulled very comprehensively over its eyes. They never raised any material issues about the quality of our accounts.”
In his first contribution to the newspaper since October last year, Johnson has defended his own role in the failure of Patisserie Valerie. The firm went into administration following the discovery of a £94m ($119m) hole in its accounts.
Johnson, who held a 37% stake in the business, had also lent it £10m in an attempt to stave off disaster to no avail. Prior to the revelations of accounting fraud the company had been valued at £450m ($570m).
Of his role as executive chairman, Johnson wrote: “I know that I was not dishonest. I was unaware of fraud. I received solid weekly numbers, comprehensive monthly management accounts and, of course, annual accounts that were given a clean bill of health by our auditors.”
On 12 October 2018, the company’s finance director Chris Marsh, suspended by the business three days earlier, was arrested and released on bail. The Serious Fraud Office confirmed that day that it had opened a criminal investigation into an individual but has made no further comment since.
Patisserie Holdings has since been broken up with the remnants of the café chain itself purchased by Dublin=based private equity group Causeway Capital Partners.