He is the trusted confidant of the Royal Princes, William and Harry, and the famous “court jester” who provides the japes and jinks that fun-loving brothers love when not on duty.
And while there have been a lot of eyebrows raised over the Royals’ loyal friendship with their Stowe-educated pal Guy Pelly, there is no doubt that he has earned their loyalty, friendship and affection.
But not everyone is so in love. Former business partner Howard Spooner was part owner of the controversial Kings Road Public nightclub with Pelly and has a very different outlook on him, rooted in a protracted financial dispute that began when the club closed two years ago.
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Club kings: Spooner (front) and Pelly (center) to the Public in 2011 before the nightclub closed
In short, when the club ended up owing Kensington and the Chelsea council Â£ 76,000 in legal fees, Spooner assumed that a company owned by him, Pelly and a third business partner, entrepreneur David Phelps, would take over. invoice.
But because the club’s license was held in a nominee company owned by Spooner – rather than the company he owned with Pelly and Phelps – the liquidators were targeting Spooner only.
He argued that the money was not owed by him personally or by his company, but by the company the three men owned.
And last week, after a two-year battle, a High Court judge dismissed a claim by the liquidator that Spooner should personally pay the Â£ 76,000. It was, in its own way, a victory, even though it is poorly paid.
Although the judge said Spooner tended to “overload the pudding in some ways,” he conceded that it was arguable that Public was, in fact, a joint venture.
Pelly and Phelps, meanwhile, still argue that they had no reason to help Spooner.
It’s a tangled financial story, but a fascinating row, which has put two very different operators – and different generations of club owners – by their throats: Spooner, the 44-year-old veteran, who now runs two successful clubs. in less trendy south London, and Pelly, the 32-year-old whose Tonteria establishment in Sloane Square continues to attract young and hipsters.
Spooner said he would no longer work with the 32-year-old
So, was there jealousy in Spooner’s decision to speak out today: did he just miss a much more fashionable train? If there is jealousy – and Spooner absolutely denies it – it is well hidden, in the midst of fury and disdain.
Going into business with Pelly, he admits, was, in hindsight, a terrible mistake, describing him as a “soft diva” who refused to help him when the going got tough. If Spooner had lost, he says, he would have had to face a bill of over Â£ 300,000 because of legal fees.
Spooner said: âAll he and Phelps had to do was make a witness statement confirming what the judge found: our company was behind the club and my company was a candidate.
âI wouldn’t be working with Pelly anymore, not in a million years.
âI’m sad for Phelps because it’s a 25-year friendship. But life is too short to do anything with people who don’t have a backbone and don’t follow through when the going gets tough.
The father-of-three, who lives in a seven-bedroom house in Wiltshire with his wife Lucy, says after the permit incident he feels Pelly, whose mother sculptor Vanda is a member of the Sugar Tate & Lyle, has shown herself to be someone whose royal brothers should “stay away” from.
He gives a sharp insight not only into Pelly’s private world, but also the remarkable “Prince Harry Effect” which he says has become Pelly’s passport to fame and wealth.
âWhen I first met Pelly, he had a slammed blue Honda Civic,â Spooner recalls. âHe never bought lunch. He squeezed a few hands in [the nightclub] Mahiki for tuppence ha’penny. In the end, he was a diva on par with Mariah Carey. ‘
Gordonstoun-trained Spooner has owned 11 nightclubs, including DNA, The Leopard Lounge and Crazy Larry’s during his 20 years in business. Pelly – who met the Princes during the Beaufort Hunt – was already well known on the club scene when he met Spooner in 2009. Pelly ran Mahiki – a favorite royal haunt – and Whiskey Mist, and he and Spooner had teamed up to set up a ‘pop-up’ nightclub event in Newbury.
Spooner said: âOnce Prince Harry goes to a club, there is every chance he will be there again.
âSo Harry’s female hunters are going down because they want to be the next Kate Middleton. The rich – bankers and hedge funds – are chasing hotties.
âBut I grew up. I don’t want to base my business on someone else’s trading to increase my own profit. Yes, I was there for an 18 month period of my life at Public, but I will never do it again.
For starters, the pair hit it off. Pelly was, Spooner said, a fairly straightforward person.
âAt one of our first meetings, I told him what are you going to bring to Public? His response was simply, “Howard, you’ve read what I can do, I can deliver princes.” ”
A friend of Pelly’s said: “I can tell you Guy is the most low-key person I know and never talks about any of his friends, let alone the princes.”
Public opened in December 2010 and has been a success from the start. But when Prince Harry was spotted there in early 2011, Public became the place to go.
“When Harry was there it was quite extraordinary,” said Spooner. ‘Some girls almost spit out their drinks [when they heard].
‘When Harry came to Public Verbier [a sister club set up in the fashionable ski resort in 2011], there were lines of girls and boys all over the club. All the girls wanted to be the one to get his attention.
Pelly, pictured at the opening of her bar Sloane Square Tonteria (left) and dancing with Kate Middleton (right) in 2006
âWe just let them walk by and say hello or say hello and then move on. Those who really thought about their chances pushed their way forward.
âBut Harry is not a shrinking purple. You wouldn’t put yourself in this situation if you didn’t accept it. He was kind to everyone.
But there were also problems. Shortly after the opening of Public London, residents of Chelsea complained about rowdy revelers making noise which they compared to the “deafening din of a football stadium”. The board decided to review the club’s late license.
âThe vast majority of our customers were really nice and behaved well,â says Spooner. âOthers weren’t so charming. There was an element of “do you know who I am” there. Some would not hesitate to urinate against the bar when they were drunk. There was a sense of entitlement, a sort of “if you touch me, daddy’s a High Court lawyer” attitude.
As the club and Pelly got more famous, Spooner noticed him change. âIt all depended on his profile and what red carpet he would be pictured on next,â Spooner said.
âHe’s become a bit of a diva. The club made a net profit of Â£ 1million in one year. I regularly gave him checks with lots of zeros – his share of the profits.
“I don’t know why someone like Harry hangs out with someone like Pelly,” Spooner said. âWhen he’s had a few drinks, Pelly gets a little wild.
âIt’s probably a lot of fun to be with someone who has royal duties. Prince Harry is a soldier. You wouldn’t want Pelly to be by your side in the trenches when the whistle blows. My advice to princes is to give it a large place.
Pelly’s “wild” side came to the fore in an incident in Verbier that shook Spooner. Pelly had gone to their apartment, only to find that he had lost his keys. âHe enlarged four floors and tried to smash a sliding glass door with logs,â says Spooner.
âThey were bouncing so he came back down, at which point someone called the police. Downstairs he took a stone and smashed another window. He walked in, went upstairs and collapsed.
Prince William pictured with the club owner in 2002 during a Six Nations match between England and Ireland
“I got home 15 minutes later and suddenly there was an aggressive knock on the door,” he adds. âI opened it and was tackled against the wall and a gun was pointed in my face.
It was the Swiss police. They thought I was a burglar. Spooner says Pelly then begged him to keep his name out of that because of his profile.
Public in London eventually lost its late license and the administrators decided to shut it down. Their relationship broke soon after. They have since communicated through their respective lawyers.
Pelly and Phelps now run the successful Mexican-themed Tonteria club in Chelsea and Bodo’s Schloss in Kensington, respectively (which suggests business acumen as well as royal connections).
“Tonteria wasn’t my thing,” Spooner said. “But in order for Pelly to do what he’s got with it, I have to take my hat off to him.”
He adds: “These are girls scantily clad in masks.”
Spooner owns The Grand and DNA clubs in Clapham, but wants to get away from that scene.
Next year he will launch his invention Horsetraq, a device that adapts to a horse’s hoof and transmits data on its every move in training and racing. The information will be available to coaches, blood stock officers, the media and players, for a fee.
“I have no hard feelings with Pelly or Phelps,” Spooner said. âI actually slightly admire Pelly, he was so determined to promote his brand. I just wouldn’t want to wake up everyday knowing that I had left the person who gave me my first shot in business when I could have helped.
Guy Pelly declined to comment last night.