Heir to the Littlewoods empire WINS High Court battle against his brother to claim a share of the family’s billion-pound fortune left in their late mother’s trust fund
A grandson of one of the brothers behind the Littlewoods pools empire today won a High Court fight with his sibling over part of the family’s billion-pound fortune.
The Moores family, heirs of Littlewoods founders Sir John and Cecil Moores, enjoy a fortune estimated in 2020 at £1.21bn, amassed through their football pools and mail order retail empire, and over the years have owned both Liverpool and Everton football clubs.
The empire was built from scratch by Sir John, aided by his brother Cecil, and was sold to the Barclay brothers in 2002 for £750m, leaving many members of the family with vast multimillion pound fortunes.
But the grandchildren of Cecil ended up fighting in court over a trust fund he set up more than 70 years ago for the benefit of future generations.
Cecil’s daughter, Patricia Moores, died aged 86 in 2017, sparking the High Court battle involving her three children.
Her elder son, Christian Velarde, 63, claimed their mum intended his younger brother, Matthew, 61, be cut out of the fund because he had been divorced and she was worried that his ex-wife may make a claim to part of the money.
But Matthew – with the backing of their sister Rebecca – said he is entitled to a third share, because his mum’s will was clear in setting out her intention to split everything equally.
Last year, a judge at the High Court ruled in Matthew’s favour.
But Christian fought on and today a more senior judge dismissed his appeal, meaning Matthew is entitled to a third share of the valuable fund, known as the Patricia Trust Fund.
Matthew Velarde (left), son of the billionaire family behind the Littlewoods empire, has won a High Court inheritance fight over the £40million fortune left by mother Patricia Moores (right)
Pictured: The £2m home of Patricia Moores in the Isle of Man which was sold before her death
Giving judgment, Judge Ashley Greenbank ruled that the previous judge, Deputy Master Martin Dray, had not been wrong in finding in Matthew’s favour.
During the hearing of the appeal in November, Christian’s barrister, Penelope Reed QC, said Mrs Moores had originally intended to split the fund between her three kids.
But in 1997 – amid Matthew’s divorce – she performed a u-turn, appointing only Christian and Rebecca as beneficiaries of the fund.
The siblings’ fight was sparked by her final will, signed in 2007, which split all of her worldwide assets – apart from specific gifts – equally between her children.
The estate was worth £40m at the time of her death, but that value did not include her entitlement to income from the trust fund, the court heard.
Christian was also left a gold orchid broach with ruby centre and diamond leaves with matching gold and diamond earrings, while Matthew was given a gold Cartier watch, his mum’s gold Russian three ring wedding ring, a three-strand pearl necklace with a large emerald and diamond clasp and two pairs of diamond earrings.
Rebecca received an art deco diamond bracelet set in platinum, diamond and pearl earrings, a diamond fern and flower broach and a Leo medallion in gold and silver, while five grandchildren were also left specific gifts of jewellery, plus £1m to split equally between them.
A single clause of her will however led to the brothers’ court fight. It states: ‘I leave devise bequeath and appoint the whole of my real estate and the rest residue and remainder of my personal estate…unto my children Peter Christian Velarde, Matthew Julian Velarde and Rebecca Velarde.’
Pictured: Rebecca Velarde, who was involved in the High Court case over her mother’s fortune
Sir John Moores (pictured left in 1951) founded the Littlewoods empire with his brother Cecil
Matthew said that meant she had revoked her 1997 appointment of his siblings as the only beneficiaries of the fund, for which no value has been disclosed.
But appealing, Ms Reed, on behalf of Christian, argued that that was not enough and that she would need to have specifically revoked the 1997 decision if she wanted to include Matthew as a beneficiary.
Pointing to evidence from Christian, she said Matthew’s divorce lay behind Mrs Moores’ decision to remove him as a beneficiary of the trust, while there had also been a ‘general cooling’ of the relationship between them.
‘Matthew was divorcing his wife around that time and she was making inquiries about the family trusts and whether Matthew was a beneficiary of them,’ she told the judge.
‘That was the reason for this exclusion.’
She said there was ‘simply insufficient’ wording in the will for a judge to find that she intended to revoke her 1997 decision and bring Matthew back in as a beneficiary of the trust.
‘Our simple point is there is no mention at all of the appointment in 1997,’ she said.
She continued: ‘This clause [of the will] was not intended to bear the weight of undoing something so carefully thought about in 1997.’
But for Matthew, barrister Rodney Stewart Smith said Deputy Master Dray had been right last year in ruling that the will was intended to make sure Mrs Moores’ assets – including her right to income from the trust – should be split equally.
Under her will, Matthew was to inherit a third of her multi-million pound estate, which did not suggest that she wanted to cut him off completely to avoid his ex-wife making a claim, he argued.
And in his witness statement, Matthew said the divorce and all its financial fallout had been concluded by 1998, that his ex had remarried a ‘wealthy’ man herself in 1999, and had never tried to make any claim against him.
Refuting the suggestion of a ‘general cooling’ of the mother-son relationship, Mr Stewart Smith added: ‘Matthew denies this, and the fact that he was throughout a one-third beneficiary of Mrs Moores’ residuary estate supports that.’
Patricia Moores had twice stated that all her worldwide assets should be taken account of and divided equally between her three children, he added.
Handing Matthew victory today, Judge Greenbank said: ‘If I am to allow the appeal, I must be persuaded that the decision of Deputy Master Dray was either wrong or unjust because of some serious procedural or other irregularity.
‘I am not convinced that, on the facts of the case, the decision of Deputy Master Dray was wrong in the sense of being unsustainable. I therefore propose to dismiss this appeal.’
The judge said the master’s decision had taken into account evidence in two letters of instruction written by Mrs Moores.
‘Those letters record her intention for her estate to be divided between her children in equal shares,’ he continued.
‘I accept that those letters are not conclusive; they could be read as referring to Mrs Moores’ estate including or excluding the assets in the Patricia Trust Fund.
‘But the deputy master did not treat them as determinative and I am satisfied that the conclusion which the deputy master drew from that evidence – that it was, at least, consistent with the notion that Mrs Moores intended Matthew to receive one third of everything that was within her gift, including the Patricia Trust Fund – was a conclusion that he was entitled to draw.
‘Having considered all the issues raised in the grounds of appeal, I am not persuaded that, on the facts of the case, the decision of Deputy Master Dray was wrong.’
The decision means that as well as getting a third share of their mum’s £40m estate, Matthew is entitled to an equal share of the ongoing income from his mother’s trust fund.
Patricia Moores – who died at her £2m six-bedroom Isle of Man home, which was set in 2.8 acres, with a pool and separate staff quarters – had reportedly received £25m from Littlewoods’ sale in 2002.
The company was built by the Moores brothers, who were later immortalised in bronze as statues in Liverpool, where the pools company was founded, and Sir John had the city’s John Moores University named after him.
In 1992, Business Age magazine, ranking Britain’s wealthiest women, put Moores family members Donabella Moores, Lady Grantchester and Patricia Martin in the top ten, with bigger fortunes than the Queen’s reported £100m at the time.