EXCLUSIVE: Jeremy Hunt, a company owned by his brother, and an accounting coincidence

Momentarily flummoxed, Jeremy decides to phone a friend

Not many people know this, but Jeremy Hunt has a younger brother called Charles. Charles used to have a company selling non-apparel cloth (bedding) via direct mail. Right at the end of its ill-starred life, this company – Peacock Blue – acquired one Jeremy Hunt as Company Secretary. Jeremy then made a loan to his brother, declared as ‘to help with his company Peacock Blue’. Then the company went under, and Mr *unt (Snr) resigned. Along the way, however, there are some odd anomalies in this caper. 

Charles Hunt is an accomplished self-publicist. Google him in the context of entrepreurial, marketing and business magazines, and he’s had a feature about himself in most of them at one time or another. He does nevertheless seem to be a bit vague about when his company Peacock Blue started up. Was it…

In 1999, I set up Peacock Blue,

or was it

In 1996, I set up a catalogue company called Peacock Blue

or was it

…..first retail trading venture, Peacock Blue, in 2000

or was the Daily Mail perhaps right in printing that ‘Charles Hunt set up his first company, Peacock Blue, in 1997’?

Oddly, none of them are right: it was incorporated on 25th April 1996.

Perhaps Charles feels that his image as ‘brave entrepreneur made good’ might be tarnished by the fact that he didn’t actually join the company until 28th January 1998. He does mention ‘my business partner at the time’ but not by name. So maybe Hunt Jr didn’t found Peacock Blue at all: in fact, just like his more infamous brother, maybe he isn’t quite the free-market entrepreneur he pretends to be.

Either way – and who am I to cast aspersions? – it went bust, and the liquidators were called in during 2010. Before then, he had to fall back on his elder sibling for a bailout: he doesn’t mention that in any of his down-to-my-last-credit-card bollocks, but Jeremy Hunt had to: the members’ interests entry reads ‘I have made a loan to my brother Charles Hunt for his business, Peacock Blue Ltd.’ (November 2005)

But as ever with Mr *unt, he didn’t quite tell the whole story. Because before that – on 14th June 2004 – the soon-to-be MP had boarded the ailing Peacock Blue as Company Secretary. As he resigned on 1st July 2005 (having been elected an MP on 5th May) and didn’t make his first interests declaration until later in the year, technically Hunt did nothing wrong. But even so, as Jeremy – albeit a genius – isn’t an accountant, and had already ‘loaned’ his brother a bailout privately…er, why did he need to become Company Secretary?

We just don’t know. In fact, with any small company that’s ceased trading, it’s almost impossible to find out anything substantive: they don’t need to submit P&L accounts, and reports rarely go back more than three years. But perhaps there are one or two clues in what follows.

Regular listeners to Hunt Balls will recall that Jeremy formed a shell company called Sheffield Data Services, in order to hide the fact that his original company had cocked up badly in its dealings with the ever-forgiving British Council. Why he did that and why the Council acquiesced in the subterfuge remains a conjectural issue. But what we can see from the snapshot below is that the shell company did rather well at the taxpayers’ expense in fiscal 2004:

Now, noting that crucial 7-figure number in the box above, compare it to the loss (expressed as negative assets) in the Peacock Blue entry below during the overlap period:

Jeremy Hunt came in to do some company secretarying in June, and ten weeks later the company goes bust for a sum uncannily close to the turnover of Sheffield Data Services…which has nothing to do with data, and isn’t based in Sheffield….but at the Head Office of the hugely successful Huntmobile, Hotcourses.

Also notable from the historical data is that from 1999 until 2002, Peacock Blue is not so much a small concern as flatlining like a corpse. Yet somehow it manages to lose an enormous amount of money in just eighteen months. Not only that, but bizarrely it somehow escaped insolvency – only going into voluntary liquidation on 6th November 2010.

All very odd. And a matter that some MSM newshounds with bigger budgets than I might wish to follow up. Although really, that shouldn’t be necessary, because all the Secretary of State for Culture has to do is answer five simple questions, and I do not doubt that as soon as he does so, the matter will be cleared up to everyone’s satisfaction:

1. Would you mind awfully telling us if the cheque for Charles was a personal or company one?

2. What was the declared profit of Sheffield Data Services during fiscal 2005?

3. What precisely did you achieve by becoming Company Secretary of Peacock Blue?

4. How did a tiny company like Peacock Blue manage to remain in the pink for five years after sustaining an assets hit of £1.5m?

5. Why – with so much left to do in the company – did you resign from it immediately after becoming an MP…and thus liable to declare any and all commercial interests?

Related: Crony capitalism as a factor in Jeremy Hunt’s success

16 thoughts on “EXCLUSIVE: Jeremy Hunt, a company owned by his brother, and an accounting coincidence

  1. Presumably, with the aid of some creative accountants the loss from Peacock Blue somehow offset the profits from SDS thereby saving tax of some 20 per cent of £1.46 million i.e., approximately £300K. Just my off the cuff guess.

  2. Stellar research as usual, John.
    I still cannot understand why his company machinations were misrepresented by the British Council both in 2001 when they announced collaboration, and in 2005 when they gave a false answer about the contractual arrangements (they said there was no change when a few months earlier they switched from Education Websites Ltd to Sheffield Data Services Ltd, and altered the terms of the contract) to a Freedom of Information enquiry. Given that he STILL has the monopoly contract with the British Council, there is something uncannily close about their association that appears to go beyond cronyism.

  3. La Virginie left the BC in 2001 when JH first got the contract. Why would the then “Director of Promotions and Partnerships” one Dr Neil Kemp in early 2002 misrepresent the contract publicly on the British Council’s own website as well as in circulars? He said the BC had contracted a “consortium” including Hotcourses, UCAS, CSU and Yahoo; in fact the contract (with Education Websites Ltd) states specifically that UCAS and CSU had “no liability whatsoever in respect of the contract, tender or otherwise”. Yahoo is mentioned nowhere in the contract or the list of shareholders, and was presumably an invention to impress the masses. And in early 2005, on his behalf presumably, the BC’s own Freedom of Information division when asked specifically if there had been any change of any kind to the contractual arrangements answered that there had been none, when it was demonstrably not true. The British Council repeats ad nauseam that it exists to “build trust” – but is unable to be truthful in matters of the Hunt (or, to be fair, much else). This was blatant lying, however.

  4. Superb stuff. Outstanding.

    In a fortnight or so, we might see the guardian or the Indie reporting this , and calling it an “exclusive”.

  5. Methinks Mr ‘unt will soon be spending more time with his investments.

    Excellent work JW – enough finally to bury the slimy toad ?

  6. You know – I’m beginning to think that this Hunt fella is bit of a crook ! Or at the very minimum a tad dishonest !

    Cannot remember when this idea of Prime Ministers having full confidence in crooks on a regular basis became standard practice…was it pre or post Mandlesnake ?

  7. Great peice of work John…..OK I have had a heavy day so… not a data company, – not based in Sheffield – So what do they do? I am missing something here.

    • Set up purely so the British Council contract could be paid to an entity other than either Hotcourses directly or the previous named entity on the contract, Education Websites Limited. The company was an off-the-shelf job.

      Interestingly, a number of the directors of Sheffield Data Services Limited (and by extension Hotcourses) are or were directors of some or all of the UCAS group of companies, the primary role of which is to manage higher education admissions in the UK.

      Cosy.

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