Guinness convictions to face appeal court grilling

Former chairman of Guinness Ernest Saunders, stockbroker Anthony Parnes and head of the Heron empire Gerald Ronson, were convicted for their actions at the time of the Pounds 2.6bn takeover bid made by Guiness for rival drinks company Distillers. Three judges will now hear their cases later this year.

Their convictions have already been criticised by the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled the trial was unfair.

At the time of the deal, Saunders in particular had a formidable reputation in the City as a slick deal-maker. But his reputation was dragged through the gutter during his trial in 1990 and a Department of Trade & Industry report in 1997.

In preparing the bid for Distillers, the three were involved in a conspiracy to boost Guinness’ stock value, bolstering its chances of netting the whisky manufacturer.

Saunders was convicted of eight counts of false accounting, two counts of theft, and of conspiracy to contravene the Prevention of Fraud (Investments) Act 1958. He was sentenced to a total of five years in prison. But his sentence was cut in 1991 and he was released from prison after serving 10 months when doctors said he had Alzheimer’s disease.

Ronson was convicted of two counts of false accounting, one count of theft, and of conspiracy to contravene the Prevention of Fraud (Investments) Act 1958. He was sentenced to twelve months in prison and fined Pounds 5m. Parnes was convicted of four counts of false accounting and two counts of theft. He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. The Appeal Court reduced his sentence to 21 months in prison.

The three were not disqualified from being directors at the time of the DTI report as president of the Board of Trade Magaret Beckett said an application for disqualification against them would not succeed.

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