EDEN CONFIDENTIAL: Duchess of York in loan battle after company crashes with £19million debts 

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Displaying her trademark lack of inhibition, she’s just announced the launch of a new podcast, ‘Tea Talks with the Duchess and Sarah’, promising that ‘no topic is off the table’ as she and co-host, entrepreneur Sarah Jane Thomson, discuss ‘the highs and lows of everyday life’.

But will Sarah, Duchess of York tackle what appears to be a new ‘low’ in her inimitable business career?

The question is prompted by the latest twist in the saga of Gate Ventures, the theatre investment company of which Fergie was a director until shortly before it was forced into administration in 2020 after apparently losing £19million.

Liquidators, attempting to claw back money for creditors, have just filed a Progress Report, recording that a ‘settlement offer’ for an outstanding loan has been rejected.

The loan – previously stated to be for £233,000 – was made to Ginger & Moss. As chance would have it, that’s a company which Fergie co-founded and of which she remains a director. She is also sole director and owner of yet another company, Solamoon Ltd, which is itself a co-owner of Ginger & Moss.

RICHARD EDEN: Will Sarah, Duchess of York tackle what appears to be a new 'low' in her inimitable business career?

RICHARD EDEN: Will Sarah, Duchess of York tackle what appears to be a new ‘low’ in her inimitable business career?

Fergie who, in her time, has flogged everything from food blenders to fountain pens, declines to comment, while the liquidators limit themselves to saying that ‘further discussions’ about the loan are ‘due’. A source close to Ginger & Moss holds out hope of a solution. ‘We have made repeated efforts to resolve this situation,’ he tells me, adding that he expects it to be ‘resolved in the coming weeks’.

It’s improbable that Gate’s shareholders are particularly optimistic about the outcome – or, indeed, about attempts to retrieve their money from other sources. Judge Sebastian Prentis put the company into administration three years ago after hearing that one of Gate’s past chairmen, Dr Johnny Hon, had invoiced the company for the ‘simply extraordinary sum’ of £4.7million – including £2.9million for meetings with ‘celebrities’.

Noting that Dr Hon had been ‘billing himself as a man of influence through the use of company money’, the judge drew attention to a £12,293 bill for a meeting with Manchester United’s Paul Pogba, £6,500 for lunch with designer Tommy Hilfiger, and thousands more for lunch with Prince Albert of Monaco. The judge added that an hour’s ‘training session’ with a Victoria’s Secret model in New York might have been ‘a very invigorating occasion for everybody’, but concluded that it was not ‘immediately recognisable as company business’.

Displaying her trademark lack of inhibition, she's just announced the launch of a new podcast, 'Tea Talks with the Duchess and Sarah', promising that 'no topic is off the table'

Displaying her trademark lack of inhibition, she’s just announced the launch of a new podcast, ‘Tea Talks with the Duchess and Sarah’, promising that ‘no topic is off the table’

Fergie, 63, may be more forgiving. Her willingness to mingle business with pleasure has been admired ever since photos of her having her toes sucked by ‘financial adviser’ John Bryan appeared in a national newspaper.

She promises to have ‘special guests’ on her podcast and to leave ‘no stone unturned’. Step forward, Dr Hon?

Did Sussex cheerleader’s pal plant Kate ‘Disney jibe’?

I do hope that Disney’s decision to feature a scene that appears to mock the Princess of Wales in its new version of The Little Mermaid was not encouraged by an old mucker of Omid Scobie, the cheerleader for Prince Harry and Meghan who is always quick to criticise Prince William and Catherine.

Zach Johnson used to work with Omid Scobie at American gossip magazine Us Weekly

Zach Johnson used to work with Omid Scobie at American gossip magazine Us Weekly

Scobie’s pal Zach Johnson is a senior figure at the Walt Disney Company. He used to work with Scobie at American gossip magazine Us Weekly. Articles which appeared under their joint bylines included one with the headline, ‘Kate Middleton Topless Photos Published in French Magazine’.

Just like Scobie, Johnson enjoys taking pot shots at the Royal Family. ‘High time to dismantle The Firm,’ he squeaked after Meghan had made ‘racism’ claims to chat show host Oprah Winfrey. ‘I don’t want to ever hear a single person criticise Meghan and Harry for leaving this toxic family ever again.’

Johnson is a senior figure at the Walt Disney Company. He enjoys taking pot shots at the Royal Family. 'High time to dismantle The Firm,' he squeaked after Meghan had made 'racism' claims

Johnson is a senior figure at the Walt Disney Company. He enjoys taking pot shots at the Royal Family. ‘High time to dismantle The Firm,’ he squeaked after Meghan had made ‘racism’ claims 

Disney’s remake of The Little Mermaid, released in cinemas next week, stars Halle Bailey, who is black, as the mermaid, Ariel, who falls for a white prince, Eric, and gives up her voice in order to be with him.

In the first meeting between Ariel and Prince Eric, he tries to guess her name. His first guess is ‘Diana’. His second is ‘Catherine’, the Princess of Wales’s first name. At the mention of the latter, Ariel screws up her face. ‘Ok, definitely not Catherine,’ Eric says.

The film already has a royal connection: the Duchess of Sussex drew parallels between herself and Ariel in her 2021 interview with Oprah.

Claudia puts the boot in 

Warning to anyone inviting Claudia Winkleman to dinner: don’t even think of making moussaka.

‘I first had an aubergine at 30 and it was upsetting,’ wails the Strictly Come Dancing co-host. ‘It’s a weird, stringy cockroach of vegetables.

‘Nothing should be that hard work, and if it’s deep fried it’s like an old wellington boot.

‘I mean everything deep-fried is nice, but aubergines are both dry and, here is the weird thing, a bit soggy.’

Why less is more for supermodel Eva Herzigova 

She brought traffic to a standstill when she appeared on billboards in a push-up bra next to the words, ‘Hello Boys’.

Now, Eva Herzigova is trying to get the fashion business to slow down.

The Czech-born model and actress, 50, has slammed the industry for staging too many catwalk shows, encouraging unsustainable consumption and damaging the environment. ‘They should go back to two seasons per year,’ she tells me at a Film AlUla event at the Ruya, Carlton, at the Cannes Film Festival. ‘Less is more, and not having this wheel rolling of 20 collections a year of the same thing. Everyone should slow down and just make it amazing and everlasting.’

The Czech-born model and actress Eva Herzigova, 50, has slammed the industry for staging too many catwalk shows

The Czech-born model and actress Eva Herzigova, 50, has slammed the industry for staging too many catwalk shows

Herzigova is enjoying a budding television career in France. ‘I’ve been acting and working on this TV series in Paris,’ she tells me.

‘For me music, fashion and cinema have always been intertwined.’

Boy George is rumoured to have been paid a record £500,000 fee to enter the jungle with Mike Tindall and Matt Hancock on I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! last year.

But the Culture Club star reckons he actually came far too cheap. ‘If I’d known what I was going to go through, I would have charged double,’ the singer, 61, tells me at a party in South London. ‘Trust me, I undercharged. I was watching it on TV, thinking, ‘It’s a show you watch, you don’t do’.

‘I thought to myself, ‘What possessed me to do it?’ I really don’t know.’ I can think of half a million reasons…

Opera superstar Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, who returned to her native New Zealand in 2021 after 54 years living in England, is missing her adopted home.

‘The shopping here is not quite the same as London,’ the soprano, 79, says. ‘Sometimes it would be nice if there was a John Lewis or a Peter Jones down the road.’ 

Opera superstar Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, who returned to her native New Zealand in 2021 after 54 years living in England, is missing her adopted home

Opera superstar Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, who returned to her native New Zealand in 2021 after 54 years living in England, is missing her adopted home

There is the compensation of being treated like royalty Down Under. One woman who saw her on a pedestrian crossing was so flustered that she even curtsied as she passed her. ‘The sweet thing is they try not to look and they treat you like they don’t know you,’ Dame Kiri says. ‘It’s very nice. They are gentle.’

Manuel’s brush with immortality 

John Cleese’s forthcoming new series of comedy classic Fawlty Towers won’t feature Manuel, the hapless Spanish waiter played by Andrew Sachs, who died in 2016 aged 86.

The late actor has, however, been celebrated by his granddaughter, Georgina Baillie, 37.

Andrew Sachs's granddaughter Georgina Baillie posing with portrait of him she's done

Andrew Sachs’s granddaughter Georgina Baillie posing with portrait of him she’s done

Her latest exhibition of her art, My Work So Far, at the Tabernacle in London’s Notting Hill, features a series of paintings of Sachs in character as Manuel. ‘I am lucky to have had a grandfather who’s loved by so many people,’ she tells me.

‘It was an absolute joy to recreate his iconic moments.’

The family fell victim to ‘Sachsgate’ in 2008 when comedian Russell Brand and presenter Jonathan Ross left Sachs a series of revolting voicemails that were played on BBC radio, taunting him about Brand’s previous relationship with Baillie.

How much did romcom king sell Notting Hill pad for… £28m actually 

He lists his recreations as ‘too much TV, too many films, too much pop music’. But will king of the rom-com, Richard Curtis, now slot one more ‘recreation’ into his Who’s Who entry — namely, ‘too much money’?

I ask because Curtis, 66, creator of a string of box office hits — beginning, in 1994, with Four Weddings And A Funeral — has, I can reveal, just achieved his biggest, tax-free cheque to date, for a staggering £28 million.

The Notting Hill house that Curtis and Emma Freud (pictured), mother of his four children, put on the market last year

The Notting Hill house that Curtis and Emma Freud (pictured), mother of his four children, put on the market last year

Curtis and Freud, 61, paid £3.6million for the property in 1998 ¿ meaning that they've been rewarded with £1million for each of the 24 years they lived there

Curtis and Freud, 61, paid £3.6million for the property in 1998 – meaning that they’ve been rewarded with £1million for each of the 24 years they lived there

It comes from the sale of the Notting Hill house that Curtis and Emma Freud (pictured), mother of his four children, put on the market last year. Newly published documents at the Land Registry show that the sale was completed in the New Year. It came two months after I disclosed that Curtis and Freud had been obliged to apply for retrospective planning permission for a flat they’d built in their garden — instead of the garage the local council had given them the green light for back in 2006.

This ‘bonus’ feature helped boost the price of the five-bedroom, end-of-terrace house into the stratosphere. Curtis and Freud, 61, paid £3.6million for the property in 1998 – meaning that they’ve been rewarded with £1million for each of the 24 years they lived there.

All of it was tax-free, because, as their primary residence, its sale was not liable for Capital Gains Tax.

Even more rewarding, then, than scriptwriting Love Actually, one of Curtis’s best loved films.



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