Property billionaires Nick and Christian Candy have been accused of frightening another businessman’s wife so seriously that she took to sleeping in her children’s bedroom, while the family hired armed guards and installed CCTV to protect their home.
The claims were made in court documents by Emma Holyoake, the wife of entrepreneur Mark Holyoake, who is suing the Candy brothers for £132m in damages over a business deal gone sour.
“It seemed as if Christian was hell bent on destroying Mark and us as a family,” said Emma Holyoake in a witness statement released on Tuesday. “At the time I remember crying and felt sick to my stomach at the risk that we appeared to be at.”
Her evidence included claims that Nick was bullied by his younger brother.
The brothers are accused of making threats against Holyoake, with Nick saying his brother would involve “Russians” who would “not think twice about hurting” his family, and Christian telling him to be careful that his pregnant wife did not suffer another miscarriage.
The Candys emphatically deny making threats. Their barrister raised questions on Tuesday about why the alleged threats had not at the time been reported to police in the UK or Spain.
Emma Holyoake said the family were so worried that in 2012 they hired armed security professionals to guard their home in Ibiza.
From the witness box in the high court in central London, she told the court that five years on guards still patrol the property. Cameras were installed in the children’s bedroom, and around the property.
“The threats made by Christian had and continue to have a very real impact on our lives … for a period whilst I was pregnant in 2012, I started to sleep in the same room as my (then) two children at night to ensure that they were safe,” Holyoake said in her statement. “I remain very concerned about my children’s safety because of the legal action Mark has taken against Nick and Christian.”
In a case which has examined the financial and personal dealings of two of Britain’s best known property developers, Holyoake’s evidence painted a picture of an unhappy relationship between the brothers.
She claimed to have become close to Nick’s wife. Before their falling out, Nick and Mark Holyoake had been close friends, often seeing each other weekly.
“After Nick met Holly, we began to see that perhaps the relationship between Nick and Christian was not as perfect as had been portrayed,” Holyoake stated. “Holly told me that Nick was bullied by Christian, that Christian was controlling and often spoke to Nick in a disrespectful and aggressive manner.”
Valance allegedly opened up to Holyoake’s wife at a party in Ibiza in 2012. She allegedly claimed her husband was so distraught about his brother’s behaviour towards him, he had “lain down in a foetal position on the floor of a hotel room and wept inconsolably”.
Mark Holyoake alleges he was blackmailed by the brothers into making extortionate repayments on a loan. The Candys deny all charges, and allege “serial dishonesty and fraud” on the part of Holyoake.
A spokesman for the Candys said: “Emma Holyoake has accepted in evidence that her statement is based on information provided to her by her husband whose claims are denied in their entirety. The statement has the sole purpose of causing reputational damage to the defendants. The defendants remain committed to having these matters decided at trial by the judge.”
Another witness statement on Tuesday saw Nick Candy accused of “acting like a gangster” in order to wrest control of a multimillion-pound tech startup.
The claims were made by Ian Roberts, who was ousted as chief executive of Crowdmix, a social music app which he founded, shortly before it was taken over by Candy last year. Roberts says he joined Holyoake’s suit because he could not afford to bring his own legal action.
Ending a nine-month silence over the circumstances of his departure from Crowdmix, the tech boss alleged in his statement that Candy had driven a once promising business “off a cliff”, and that he was “capable of threats, blackmail and dishonesty” to get what he wanted.
Roberts claimed Candy had begun as a “perfect” backer, before turning against him. He said Candy and his venture fund Candy Capital acted with malice to force him out, “initially by abusing the trust they had built up but then simply blackmailing themselves into a position of absolute power”.
Candy denies the claims, saying Crowdmix collapsed because of “exorbitant and lavish spending”. The company folded last summer after spending £14m of investors’ money, and without ever having launched its app.
Roberts says he lost his life savings and his pension when Crowdmix folded. Nick Candy has invested £10m in the business. He first backed Crowdmix in 2015 and eventually became its biggest investor. Last summer, he bought the startup out of administration for £675,000.
Crowdmix, which would allow members to create playlists using their accounts with music streaming services such as Spotify, had widespread backing from investors in the City, music industry professionals and media executives.
By April last year Roberts was hoping to raise a further £15m and £25m from backers valuing the business at £100m. In order to tide the company over while negotiations continued, Roberts claims that in mid-April Candy offered a £5m bridging loan. He alleges the terms of the loan were verbally agreed.
On the morning of 13 May, Crowdmix communicated the strategy to prospective investors.
Roberts claims Candy Capital’s “path to power” began that day. In a phone call, he and his co-founder Gareth Ingham were allegedly asked by a Candy representative to hand over 1.5m shares each – roughly a third of their respective holdings. Roberts claims he was told he would receive no payment for his shares. If he refused, no further cash would be forthcoming. Crowdmix had no reserves and was dependent on loans from Candy to pay staff.
“Nick was acting like a gangster and he was playing us,” Roberts claims. He alleges the promise of a £5m loan was a trick designed to engineer a situation where Crowdmix was entirely dependent on Candy for funding.
On 30 May, Roberts says he was asked to leave Crowdmix. He felt there was no choice but to fall on his sword.
Some weeks later, Crowdmix was placed into administration. In the summer of 2016, Candy bought the company from the receiver. The Crowdmix app has yet to launch to the public.
For the Candys, Thomas Plewman QC dismissed the claim by Roberts that Candy Capital had engineered a takeover of Crowdmix.
“Candy Capital was your biggest funder and gave your dream extraordinary support,” Plewman told the court. “Candy Capital never wanted to own or manage Crowdmix. They bought some of the assets out of administration on a lawful, proper and competitive basis. The idea that this was a campaign to illegitimately take control is without any foundation at all.”
The case continues.