The past year has not been a good one for former Caterham F1 team owner Tony Fernandes. After scoring no points since joining F1 in 2010 the team was finally sold last month to a consortium of Swiss and Middle Eastern investors. The performance of football team Queens Park Rangers, in which Fernandes is a shareholder, has not been much better finishing bottom of the Premier League in 2012/13 and beaten 1-0 by Hull in the season opener on Saturday, its first game following its return to the Premiership. Now, even the London nightclub in which Fernandes has a stake faces closure according to an article in the London Evening Standard by Christian Sylt.
The club, known as Aura, was yesterday in court as the Inland Revenue claimed that it owes it money and filed a petition to wind up the business.
Fernandes led a consortium which took over Aura in 2010 and its guests have since included Rihanna, Usher and Madonna who reportedly visited the venue so frequently that she held talks in 2011 about buying a stake in it.
Aura's fortunes have nosedived over the past year culminating in the winding up petition. It was filed on 2 May by the Inland Revenue which claims to be a creditor of the venue's parent company Merlot 73.
Its latest accounts are for the year-ending 31 March 2013 and show that its creditors increased from £488,874 to £741,532. This fuelled a £150,000 fall in shareholders' funds to £44,712 despite the owners making £25,000 of investment in the business. The bad news didn't stop there.
In August 2012 Westminster Council reviewed the club's licence at the instigation of the police who wanted it revoked. Instead, the council imposed more than 20 conditions that its owners said would make it completely unviable as a nightclub.
Councillors said revellers would have to drink from plastic cups and demanded that the doors be closed to punters at midnight. The venue's boss Alberto Barbieri appealed saying that the conditions would result in closure which would put staff out of a job and waste up to £2m of investment.
The appeal was dismissed in April 2013 and in a last-ditch bid to save the club its owners launched judicial review proceedings. This too failed and Mr Justice Blair told the court "the fact remains that these premises were causing a serious crime and disorder problem, which has not fully abated even now."
Records at Companies House show that Merlot 73 is still active and, according to its latest filings, Fernandes owns a 12.5% stake in it with a further 18.75% held by his investment vehicle Tune Entertainment Group. It gives Fernandes the largest shareholding in the business with the other owners including Barbieri and party planner Jonny Dodge who has a 7.8% stake. He told Pitpass that the club itself closed eight months ago and that he has been a silent partner for the last few years.