in the back
A record to be Proud of?
Clubbing, Issue 1532
ON 7 September, minister for London Paul Scully met business leaders from the capital’s night-time economy – including Alex Proud, the flamboyant nightclub and cabaret owner, who thought the government’s attitude “very constructive”.

PROUD MOMENTS: Club owner Alex with friends
Three weeks later, however, Proud expressed fury at the government’s 10pm curfew. “It’s a disaster for the hospitality sector,” he told Sky News on 24 September. “How are we going to restart the economy in six months if we don’t exist anymore?”

On TalkRadio last week he was even more expansive: “Being told their jobs aren’t viable by some junior idiot minister on TV who I just want to – sorry to say this – I want to slap them and say what do you know about a viable job, you’ve been an MP all your life. You’ve never even worked for a living.”

Proud did his bit to save the industry in August by reopening his Proud Embankment venue in London with a “Cabaret All-Stars”, featuring Denise van Outen plus scantily clad burlesque performers, acrobats and fire-breathers. But since Alex Proud is now criticising the government for not giving his businesses more support, it’s worth reviewing how much taxpayers have lost courtesy of the Proud Group in the last eight years. Here are his companies with their liquidation dates and unpaid VAT, PAYE and rates:

2012: Proud2 Ltd owed HM Revenue & Customs £208,718 and Greenwich council £48,635.

2013: Proud Power Ltd owed HMRC £694,316 and Camden council £15,339; Proud City Ltd owed HMRC £139,291; and Proud Brighton Ltd owed HMRC £52,306 and Brighton council £878.

2019: Cabaret Camden Ltd owed HMRC £60,137; Country House Stanmer Ltd owed HMRC £72,378 and Brighton council £56,975; Cabaret Club City Ltd owed HMRC £167,456; Cabaret Club West End Ltd owed HMRC £176,826 and Westminster council £198,743; and Cabaret Club Brighton Ltd owed HMRC £33,938 and Brighton council £19,461.

2020: Proud Publishing Ltd owed HMRC £275,000, Brighton council £30,629, City of London Corporation £19,049 and Westminster council £95,012.

This total of £2.4m (not to mention £8m owed to other creditors) means taxpayers have lost at least £900 for every day Alex Proud has traded over the last eight years – and that’s before the lockdown. If his business truly “won’t exist anymore”, it will save the taxpayer a small fortune.

A ‘brutal industry’
“Of course I regret that HMRC and other creditors were not paid as a result of these liquidations,” Proud tells the Eye. But he says it is unfair to suggest the Proud Group had “cost the taxpayer”, since it did also pay some VAT, PAYE and other taxes over those years: “approximately £20m… We do not hold on site records stretching back for the relevant period but it is an accurate assessment.”

Of his many liquidations, he says: “In each situation I have regrets but rather than any foul play what these incidents illustrate is how brutal an industry hospitality can be even at the best of times and therefore how dire a threat the current circumstances – which have deprived many businesses in the industry of 100 percent of their revenue – pose to our future.”

PS: “It’s all been a big mistake and I put my hands up that sometime someone’s going to catch me,” Proud told Soho Radio this February, just before lockdown. “What’s that film – Catch Me If You Can? I watch that feeling like a fraud half the time.” Later in the interview he revealed: “I’ve been bankrupt three or four times. I’m not going to be embarrassed to admit it. Mainly I make sure it’s HMRC who suffer rather than anyone else.”

PPS: Proud is a prominent supporter of the Liberal Democrats, and in February this year joined the party’s round table of business owners dedicated to the “safety of female employees” in London’s nocturnal economy. Alas! A month later the Sunday Times reported that five female ex-employees were accusing him of sexually harassing and assaulting them. He denies the allegations.

More top stories in the latest issue:

A bank set up to promote commerce in the former British empire appears in the FinCEN Files, which reveal the extent of global money laundering.

A daughter’s battle to uncover the truth about how her parents died presents a damning indictment of the state of health and social care for the elderly.

Job cuts and rescue centre closures at the RSPCA have been blamed in part on the pandemic – but the dire state of the charity has been longer in the making.

Dave Cook, the detective whose corrupt behaviour largely led to the collapse of a trial for the murder of Daniel Morgan, has accused his bosses of corruption.

Almost 50,000 salmon escaped from a fish farm near Arran during a late summer storm, and it’s not the first time for its owner, Norwegian giant Mowi.

More than 16,500 fire doors in local authority housing are overdue for repair or replacement, freedom of information requests have revealed.

Health secretary Matt Hancock is being asked to block a massive hospital reorganisation which will see the closure of London’s historic Royal Brompton.

To read all these stories in full, please buy issue 1532 of Private Eye - you can subscribe here and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

Next issue on sale: 20th October 2020
Private Eye Issue 1532
In This Issue
World’s most powerful virus red-faced after catching Trump – ‘I thought President was a hoax’… Next US presidential debate between Hubris and Schadenfreude confirmed… Emperor who cried wolf now suffering from wolf… Christmas cancelled by Procter Johnson – The Cromwellian Times exclusive… Queen to be honoured by an audience with Dame Mary Berry… Dr No Release, Tomorrow Never Screens, Live and Let Cinema Die – Those new Bond films in full… ‘I’m as fit as a Prime Minister’ – A Butcher’s Dog writes… Charles Moore: My Television, as told to Craig Brown

Ofcom calling?
The quango Paul Dacre loves to hate

Brexit ahoy!
Why UK ports are all at sea

MD’s health warning
The wider risks of lockdown

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20th October 2020
Private Eye Issue 1531