Aurum Holdings chief executive officer Brian Duffy has spoken to WatchPro of his disappointment in The Sunday Time front page story that accused the luxury retail group of tax dodging at the weekend.
Appearing beneath a picture of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, The Sunday Times ran a story headed ‘Queen’s jeweller dodges tax – Royal warrant holder: £66m profit but no tax’ which made a series of statements about Aurum’s lack of a corporation tax bill, profits and business structure, without making any further claims within the story itself.
“We were very disappointed to read it,” said a clearly despondent Duffy. “It was clear that the press had been given a preview of Dispatches [Channel 4’s Dispatches screened on Monday night focused on Royal Warrant holders] and it was taken from that. The disappointing thing is that it featured a number of factual errors and things taken out of context.”
The first such error, according to Duffy, was the figure of £66m profits over the past five years. Duffy told WatchPro that Aurum Holdings’ group profits were actually £13m over that period and its lack of any corporation tax bill was due in part to ‘past losses of the group’ as well as the massive investment the company has made in its retail operation, with numerous multi-million pound store openings this year alone.
The Dispatches episode, entitled ‘How the Monarchy can make you millions’ and screened the night after The Sunday Times article appeared, revealed that Aurum Group itself was part of a chain of companies that tracks back to Luxembourg. Aurum Group was purchased by American private equity group Apollo Global Management in 2012.
Duffy confirmed that Aurum had not paid any corporation tax for the period concerned but stated: “It has absolutely nothing to do with our structure or any overseas nature. We are 100% tax resident in the UK.”
Mappin & Webb has held Royal Warrants as a silversmith since 1897 with five consecutive monarchs and Duffy seemed aghast that the Queen’s image had been used in The Sunday Times to illustrate the story, saying: “What was most disappointing was bringing Her Majesty into it; we’ve held Royal Warrants for well over one hundred years and we’re all very proud of that fact.”
Duffy said owners Apollo had been ‘tremendous shareholders’ since acquiring the group and that Aurum would review what had been said before deciding whether to take any action.