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Dec 6th, 2015

Wentworth Barrister 'betrayal'

Top barrister accused by members

One of Britain’s most respected barristers has been accused by fellow members of Wentworth golf club of betraying them. Lord Grabiner, a top commercial barrister and Master of Clare College, Cambridge, has defended his decision to give legal advice to Wentworth's new owners.

But he has faced furious opposition from the club’s members.

Lord Grabiner was hired by the new owners of Wentworth Club to give advice on the legality of its plans to increase fees while drastically cutting the number of members.

Lord Grabiner, who is an honorary member of the club, declared in a legal opinion paid for by Reignwood that their plans were legal.

All the current members will have to apply to rejoin Wentworth with no guarantee of success. Those who are invited to rejoin will then have to pay £100,000 as well as increased annual membership fees.

Lord Grabiner’s involvement in giving legal advice came to light after the club’s captain and other members were shown a summary of his opinion in a meeting with Reignwood staff.

Lord Grabiner remains an honorary member of the club, which entitles him to play at Wentworth for free.

Michael Fleming, Wentworth’s captain, said: “I feel stabbed in the back by Lord Grabiner. You don’t expect an honorary member to draw up legal advice to evict all the members who have provided everything for him.”

Nigel Moss, who is leading a campaign against the changes, said: “He has given the legal underpinning to evict all 4,000 members. They will have to re-apply for 800 memberships and pay £100,000 as an unsecured loan for the privilege.”

Lord Grabiner denied he had betrayed members. He said: “I was a non-executive director of Wentworth when it was owned by Richard Caring and when he decided to sell to the Chinese company obviously the board resigned, including me.

“After the sale went through I was instructed as a lawyer to advise them on aspects of the structure they were proposing, which I have done.”

 “I was just giving professional advice. My personal views are not relevant. They [the members] just don’t like the advice and I understand that.”

He said complaints that paying members had subsidised him were “ridiculous”, adding: “How can they say they subsidise my honorary membership?

“The proprietor owns the club. He [Richard Caring] gave about half a dozen people honorary membership on the basis they helped to run the club by sitting on the board for free. ”

Reignwood said: “Legal advice concerning the membership amendments was provided by legal advisors and Lord Grabiner QC. The advice was provided on an independent, arm’s length, professional basis.

“As per other members of the board at the time, Lord Grabiner received an honorary membership when Richard Caring acquired Wentworth Club. This comes to an end on 31 March 2016.”

Reignwood says it needs to raise fees because it wants to invest £20m to improve facilities over the next two year.

TAGS: News, 2015, Wentworth