Charity facing huge bill over home sale

AFTER a marathon legal row, estate agents have finally won the right to commission on the �950,000 sale of a convalescent home on Weston seafront.

The bitter dispute, which has run up vast sums in legal bills, pitted the unusually named charitable body the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, Grand Lodge of England against leading estate agents Christie Owen and Davies Plc (Christies).

The argument centred on whether businessman and former councillor, Chris Kimitri, who owned the Nook & Harbour restaurant on the seafront, was part of a joint venture that snapped up The York home at 1-3 St Margarets Terrace for �950,000 in 2008.

This week, three Appeal Court judges ruled that he was and, as Christies had first introduced Mr Kimitri to the charitable order as a potential purchaser, the estate agency was entitled to commission on the deal.

Lord Justice Rix said Christies, which then had an exclusive right to market the property, introduced Mr Kimitri, whose wife is an extensive landowner in the town, to the order in July 2007.

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Although he was ‘keenly interested’, the sale did not go through at that stage and the property was put up for auction in May 2008. The York did not make its reserve price but, after negotiations in the ballroom at Claridges, it was sold for �950,000 to Mr Kimitri’s cousin, Kyriacos Pavlou.

Christies went to court for its commission, insisting that Mr Kimitri, Mr Pavlou and another relative, John Tsaroullas, effectively bought the property as partners and it was a ‘joint venture’ between them.

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Lord Justice Rix, sitting with Sir Nicholas Wall and Lord Justice Moore-Bick, agreed there was ‘a wealth of evidence’ that the cousins ‘had gone to the auction to bid and buy as partners’ and they and Mr Tsaroullas each ‘contributed one third’ towards the venture.

The court’s decision means the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, Grand Lodge of England is now liable to pay Christies more than �50,000 commission and interest on the sale of The York, which was run for elderly and infirm members of the order.

The charity now also faces very substantial legal costs bills, after it was ordered to pay �50,000 on account of those costs by October 27, pending final assessment of the bill, which could well reach six figures.

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