Legal – Court battle for Maxwell funds

A last-ditch attempt to prevent the estate of dead media tycoon Robert Maxwell being consumed entirely by professional fees was launched this week in the High Court.

Mr Justice Ferris, who faced a humiliating defeat when he tried unsuccessfully to contest the #650,000 fees of insolvency specialist Buchler Phillips in its receivership of the estate, is now trying to stop payment of a bill to the Taxing Master who was appointed to investigate the firm’s fee claim.

Chief Taxing Master Hurst ruled in favour of the firm in February, leaving creditors with only #40,000 of the tycoon’s #1.67m estate.

But the estate’s remaining funds have been threatened by a request from Hurst that standard costs payable to a Taxing Master of 7.5% of the sum assessed are now due and that the total remuneration of #50,000 be paid by the estate.

A Buchler Phillips insider said: ‘Ferris has directed us to appeal the decision that a fee must be payable.’

But commentators questioned whether there would be sufficient funds to pay the outstanding amount.

One said: ‘The whole reason this case hit the headlines was because the fees constituted most of the estate and there cannot be much left in the kitty to cover this.’

Buchler Phillips remained confident that it would not be held liable for the costs although there has not yet been any indication of whether the firm would be able to charge back the costs of the appeal.

The High Court is expected to rule on the dispute later this month.

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