Why was a ‘luxe’ firm £9,000 in debt given a £26m PPE contract?

£25.8 million for the delivery of 10 million FFP2/KN95 face masks and 1.2 million gowns. On the face of it, this deal — fast-tracked through the Government’s “high priority VIP lane” — made no sense at all. Luxe Lifestyle was a recently-formed company with no staff and no experience in buying and selling PPE. Accounts filed at Companies House show it to have negative equity of £9,017. It is a micro entity with one director and no official trading history.

The very next day, on April 29, DHSC bought another 200 million face masks, this time contracting to pay £252.5 million to Ayanda Capital, a Tory party-linked firm also bumped into the VIP lane despite having no previous PPE experience. It is an investment company specialising in currency trading, offshore property and private equity.

Each contract raises questions, but a little digging reveals something distinctly curious. It turns out that there is a historic link between the family running Luxe Lifestyle and the one behind Ayanda. The latter is run by Tim Horlick and his son-in-law Nathan Engelbrecht, 38.

Luxe Lifestyle is owned by Karen Brost Whyte, 52, an American-born, London-based fashion designer who in 2008 briefly made a name for herself by designing “power woman outfits” that featured in Vogue and were said to be popular with Hollywood stars. Ms Brost Whyte is married to financier Timothy James Whyte, 46.

Karen Brost Whyte

/ ES Published Images

Back in 2017, it emerges that Mr Whyte and Mr Engelbrecht were both shareholders and directors of a company called Times Place Brasseries Ltd. According to Companies House, Mr Engelbrecht and his mother-in-law Nicola Horlick are still significant shareholders, although no longer directors. Times Place Brasseries was crowdfunded with around £150,000 in 2013 on the back of Ms Horlick’s plan to buy out and run a restaurant in Chiswick.

We asked DHSC whether it was aware of this family connection between Luxe Lifestyle and Ayanda Capital at the time the contracts were signed and, if not, whether such knowledge would have caused alarm bells to ring. DHSC declined to address this or to answer further questions about why Luxe Lifestyle won a contract.

A spokesman, referring to the case brought in the High Court by the Good Law Project and EveryDoctor to challenge several PPE contracts, including Ayanda Capital’s, said: “We do not comment on ongoing legal proceedings.”

Nathan Engelbrecht

/ PA

So did Ayanda and Luxe work together to secure their contracts or is it just a coincidence? An Ayanda Capital spokesman said: “There is no relationship between Luxe Lifestyle and Ayanda Capital and neither party offered or accepted any assistance from the other in relation to PPE contracts. The principals of Ayanda, Tim Horlick and Nathan Engelbrecht, were not aware Luxe Lifestyle had bid for business with DHSC until their contract was publicised in August 2020 and a mutual acquaintance mentioned this in passing.”


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