The owners of an Aylesbury Vale equestrian centre have accused a London 2012 Olympic gold-medal winning showjumper of making around £700,000 in ‘secret profits’ from horse deals they were involved in.
Mike and Emma Phillips, who run Quainton Stud, have supported Ben Maher since 2005 but claim he ripped them off on several occasions and are suing him in the High Court.
The couple said they feel ‘broken hearted and utterly betrayed’ by his alleged actions. Mr Maher, 30, is expected to deny the claims.
Mr and Mrs Phillips had a close working relationship with Mr Maher and they entered into an equal ownership of Tripple X, the horse the Olympian won gold on last summer.
Over the years Mr Maher acted as an agent for the couple in a number of deals, and this is when they claim he gave them false details of the sales.
In one instance, Mr Maher is alleged to have told the couple an offer of $500,000 had been made for a horse they owned called Tackeray.
However, court papers claim the actual sale price was $850,000, which was paid into Mr Maher’s bank account.
The papers say: “Mr Maher thereby made a secret profit of $350,000 for which Mr Maher is accountable and to which Quainton Stud is entitled.”
Mrs Phillips said: “We were at first disappointed and upset but now are totally shocked at the abuse of our trust and our support as the details have unravelled.
“We treated Ben as one of our family, working with him since 2005 when he was an aspiring equestrian at the tender age of 22.
“We did all we could to provide the conditions that led to Ben’s fantastic success at the Olympics last year and now feel broken hearted and utterly betrayed.
“We love the sport. We adore our horses. But in truth we’ve become totally disillusioned since investigating what’s gone on.”
The Olympic showjumper is accused of making secret profits on five other deals: Quirifino (€10,000), Awanti (€50,000), Vigolo (€152,000), Robin Hood (£80,000) and Wonder Boy (£222,496).
The claims amount to nearly £700,000 based on conversion rates, although there could also be costs and damages awarded.
Court papers describe how Mr Maher began by helping with the training and competition of a horse at Quainton Stud in 2005 after Mrs Phillips saw an article that said he was short of horses to ride and invited him to the centre.
As the relationship developed, the couple treated him ‘akin to a family member’.
The court papers say: “Mr Maher’s advice was fundamental to the decision to acquire any particular horse, and Mr and Mrs Phillips were also increasingly motivated by a desire to assist Mr Maher’s career in showjumping competition, and to assist in improving his ranking.”
Mrs Phillips said: “It is all now in the hands of the court. It is a very sad end to a highly successful partnership.”
The couple also want to sell Tripple X.