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Jealousy over ‘undeserved’ MBE led to bitter fallout between pair of business partners

Jealousy over ‘undeserved’ MBE led to bitter fallout between pair of business partners who had been friends since school

  • Adrian Fewings and Martin Poulter set up their company together in 1984
  • In 2018, Fewings was awarded an MBE for services to business, Poulter was not 
  • Honour led Poulter to ‘extort and blackmail’ Fewings, High Court has heard
  • Judge ordered Poulter to pay Fewings and his ex wife £20.85 million in exchange for their shares in the company


Jealousy over an MBE appointment was at the root of a bitter argument between two friends that has ended up in the High Court in London.

Adrian Fewings and Martin Poulter, both 63, set up Derbyshire Aggregates from Poulter’s father’s garden shed in 1984 and grew the company into a thriving international business.

But the green-eyed monster reared its head when Fewings was appointed an MBE for services to business in the Queen‘s birthday honours list in 2018, the court heard. Poulter was not included in the list of honourees. 

Fewings has accused Poulter of scheming to oust him from the company out of jealousy, The Times reported. 

HMRC launched an investigation into both men after Fewings claimed he had been ‘extorted and blackmailed’ by Poulter, saying he’d been threatened to disclose that they had accepted undeclared cash payments unless he turned down the MBE. 

The payments from customers amounted to more than £200,000 in undeclared income and the two men separately made voluntary disclosures to the tax authority, the paper reported.  

Jealousy over an MBE appointment was at the root of a bitter argument between two friends that has ended up in the High Court in London [File photo]

Fewings accused Poulter, who he had been friends with since school, of behaving in a ‘vulgar and venal way, making shows of his wealth, only being interested in having more money, and being tactless to both staff and business associates in the way that he flaunted his lifestyle and success’.

He claimed that Poulter had alsoe threatened to expose his partner for hosting non-business events using company expenses. 

The court heard that Poulter was enraged that in the honour, Fewings appeared to have been described as the company’s sole founder and was described as a chief executive.    

Fewings was in fact the company’s chairman, but resigned from that post following an office confrontation, the Times reported.

Adrian Fewings (pictured) and Martin Poulter, both 63, set up Derbyshire Aggregates from Poulter's father's garden shed in 1984 and grew the company into a thriving international business but fell out when Fewings was awarded an MBE

Adrian Fewings (pictured) and Martin Poulter, both 63, set up Derbyshire Aggregates from Poulter’s father’s garden shed in 1984 and grew the company into a thriving international business but fell out when Fewings was awarded an MBE

On Wednesday, a judge at the High Court ordered that Fewings and his ex wife, who together owned 45 per cent of the company, were victims of unfairly prejudicial conduct.

Mr Justice Fancourt ordered that they should be paid £20.85 million for their shares – more than three times the £6.6 million offered by Poulter. 

The judge said Poulter was so annoyed by the apparent MBE snub that he ‘would willingly have caused [Fewings’ MBE] to be revoked, if he easily could have done.’           

‘His approach was more subtle than merely to fight to get the honour withdrawn: it was to use the threat of the honour being removed from [Fewings], and public disgrace, to induce him to resign’.

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