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