Scoot founder is back in trouble

Dotcom entrepreneur Robert Bonnier is being hunted for £14m of unpaid debts.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Robert Bonnier, the city financier who made and lost a fortune with directories service Scoot back in the original dotcom era, is being chased for £14m in unpaid debts by the administrators of Global Trader Europe. The derivatives brokerage collapsed last year, and counted Bonnier as a client.

The administrators have even employed a private investigator, but the former head of Scoot is proving tough to track down (and not just because he's ex-directory). Despite compiling a list of addresses linked to Bonnier over the past nine months, letters and emails to him have apparently been coming back undelivered.

One explanation for the silence is that they're trying to reach Bonnier at 1 Holland Park. They won't get very far there: he lost that £12m luxury house late last year in what was thought to be the UK's biggest repossession.

To Bonnier's credit, it tends to take more than a niggly little repossession or £14m debt to knock him down. Since he shot to fame with Scoot, the entrepreneur has demonstrated a Rasputin-like resistance to potentially crippling blows.

Back in the investment mania surrounding the rise of the internet, Scoot's value soared to around £2.5bn. Bonnier alone was said to be worth £150m. Ah, those heady days. Then it went spectacularly wrong and Scoot collapsed, with Bonnier's stake being seized to cover the company's debts. Scoot became one of the most sobering, schadenfreude-inspiring examples of dotcom folly.  

Bonnier came back, making another fortune trading on the London stock market - largely through contracts for difference, a complicated method of trading in shares. In 2004 he was fined a then-record £290,000 by the FSA for misleading statements he made over his intention to bid for Regus, the office rentals group.

Since then he's even managed to found and fold another web start-up, Naked, a social networking platform billed as a cross between email and Twitter.

The scrap with Global Trader Europe involved the company launching a High Court bid to recover an alleged £6.2m debt from Bonnier and two Jersey-based companies, only to slip into administration a few weeks later. Now those administrators are after Bonnier for their £14m, and can't seem to find him. Maybe he's hanging with Fred Goodwin at Goodwin's mate's Majorcan villa...

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