Dunedin directors in ownership battle

Yuill Irvine: led advisers and directors that set up Melville
Yuill Irvine: led advisers and directors that set up Melville
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THE directors of the collapsed Edinburgh IFA Dunedin Independent are embroiled in a dispute with their former owner Helvetia Wealth over a new business venture they have set up in the city.

The row revolves around ownership of the assets of the new firm Melville Independent, set up by former Dunedin managing director Yuill Irvine and finance director Raymond Milne.

Zurich-based Helvetia said it is “in discussions” with Irvine, claiming it owns part of Melville, though the firm has yet to confirm what action it may take.

Helvetia put Dunedin Independent into liquidation last week claiming that liabilities from the company’s property investments and a number of staff leaving the firm in July 2011 had left it in an “untenable financial situation”.

Dunedin was closed less than 18 months after Helvetia had paid an estimated £4 million to acquire the business. Before Dunedin’s collapse, Irvine had led a team consisting of most of its directors and advisers to start up Melville as a “phoenix company”, allegedly unbeknown to Helvetia. Herbert Fugel, a director of Helvetia, admits he had been “surprised” by Irvine’s move to new offices last June.

Irvine lured 23 staff as well as clients of Dunedin to the new business but it is understood Helvetia is claiming it owns 80 per cent of Melville. The dispute has been ongoing since the new company launched in June last year.

In July, Helvetia released a statement saying it had restructured its UK independent adviser business and that Melville was an autonomous “local brand” that would use Helvetia’s “strategic investment solutions” system.

Fugel said: “We have been discussing the core operation [in Edinburgh]. The discussion is still ongoing, so we can’t say much about it. We said in July we are working on a core operation, but that hasn’t changed, it takes a long time.

“That people leave in big groups is nothing new.

“It was a surprise but we didn’t sit back and say that was the end of the story.”

Irvine was a regulated advisor under guidelines established by the FSA. He is listed on its register of individuals as “inactive”. According to its website, the FSA “must approve an individual before they are able to conduct certain types of business, such as selling or advising on investments like personal or stakeholder pensions, life assurance policies, shares or collective investment schemes”.

Irvine is not listed as a director of Melville Independent. A person who answered the phone at Melville said Irvine was on holiday and unavailable for comment.