A SCARBOROUGH businessman is defending himself after reports he flew executives to the French Riviera for a one-hour meeting while staff were being made redundant.
Scarborough-born retail entrepreneur Arthur Harris has been described as a “fatcat boss” in a report by The Daily Record, which unveiled the two-day jaunt to Port Grimaud, near St Tropez.
The article states Mr Harris, chief executive of Haldanes Stores, treated three directors to accommodation in a £100 a night hotel, and were wined and dined by Mr Harris, who was on a six-week holiday in the area.
Less than a year later, and Haldanes Stores is now in administration with more than 600 staff facing the axe.
One of those on the trip, former trading director Colin Farquhar, said: “The best way I could describe Arthur Harris is that he has champagne eyes and Coca Cola pockets.”
Another senior director said: “It was a total and utter waste of money that the company didn’t have.”
The French trip is reported to have taken place in August last year, with the article claiming Mr Harris also used his company credit card to fund a trip to the Monaco Grand Prix, as the company realised it was in serious trouble.
However, Mr Harris, whose nickname is said to be Captain Ribeye because of his love of steak dinners, denies being frivolous with the company’s money,
In response to The Daily Record article Mr Harris said: “Two of the directors, including myself, were already in France on holiday. It was cheaper to fly out the remaining three directors, via low-cost airline, than to transport them all to Grantham and put them up in a hotel. All three stayed in a small, three-star hotel for one night and flew back to the UK the next day.
“The other purpose of the board meeting was to carry out detailed research into the retail landscape in France.”
He added: “I was invited to the Monaco Grand Prix as a guest of a friend who lives in France. My fuel, as with all company directors and as agreed with the HMRC, was paid for by the company. I stayed with a friend, not in a hotel.”
Mr Harris admitted it was “quite possible” that his expenses were around £3,000 a month.
Mr Harris, who now lives in a £750,000 home near Grantham, in Lincolnshire, is the man behind part of the Woodhead the Bakers takeover after his other company, the Haldane Retail Group, took over the Beaconsfield Street Bakery and 11 stores under the subsidiary firm Bakery Products.
He also previously fronted the East-Midlands based holding group Y50. The firm was the umbrella company of Dolphin Retail, which used to own two Shell petrol stations on Seamer Road, and Newby Service Station, before closing them in 2009 after running in to difficulty with the banks.
Mr Harris said the Haldane Retail Group is not linked to Haldanes Stores, which is seeking a buyer after going into administration.