ONE of the region’s most prominent businessmen has been declared bankrupt over a £3.3m debt.
Karl Watkin, a former North East Business Executive of the Year, has had a portfolio which includes the creation of a multi-million-pound Chinese gold-mining firm, a biofuels empire, a private jet business and a leading role in a historic regional printing business.
But he was made bankrupt at Newcastle County Court after the Bank of Scotland launched proceedings against him.
Mr Watkin, who holds the MBE, has run a raft of businesses in the region for over 20 years.
He has also made headlines in recent years for a number of unsuccessful campaigns against British people being sent for trial in the United States under a controversial extradition treaty.
But he has now been declared bankrupt by the court after the Bank of Scotland claimed he owed them £3,264,338.78.
Earlier this year Ghyllheugh, the eight-bedroom country house in Longhorsley, Northumberland, where Mr Watkin previously lived with his family was advertised for sale for £2.75m. The property is understood to have been sold subject to contract.
The Insolvency Service said Mr Watkin will have the opportunity to appeal against the order.
When contacted by The Journal last night Mr Watkin said he had “no comment to make at all”. It is understood he is currently in Australia.
Mr Watkin began his business career running a market stall in Morpeth. Grammar school-educated at Wallsend and King Edward VI in Morpeth, he was named businessman of the year in 1992, following a management buyout and restoration to health of engineering firm Crabtree at Gateshead. He was also made an MBE.
In 1995 he bought Newcastle’s then troubled Tyne Theatre, which he sold on for others to revive.
He turned to the dotcom boom in 2000, with an internet company J2C (Just2Clicks) offering an online business marketplace. But just two years later, the company was liquidated.
Mr Watkin then turned his attentions abroad with Dealcommunity, a network of business-to-business exchange opportunities, and telecommunications firm RedComm.
When renewable energy entered the Government’s agenda, Mr Watkin masterminded biofuels firm D1 Oils to run plantations in Africa and Asia. The company also had refineries on Teesside and Merseyside, and operations in London, Boston, Johannesburg, Delhi and Manila.
But after a Government review urged a slowdown, he quit as a non-executive director and the refineries were mothballed.
Mr Watkin has also run ventures to reprocess mine waste in China and acquired gold, copper and nickel mining interests there, as well as a private jet business, Plane Chartering.
Over the years he has played his part in helping to increase the representation of North East firms on the stock market by having a hand in several public listings.
He also led campaigns against the extradition to the US of a number of British people, and in October last year, he applied to bring a private prosecution in the UK against two terror suspects in a bid to stop them being sent to America.
Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, turned down the application, saying the documents provided by Mr Watkin were “very short, lack any meaningful detail and do not provide any real support for a prosecution”.
Last August Mr Watkin also launched a fund to help grieving mother Pat Long’s legal bid to force the Ministry of Defence to hold a new inquiry into her son’s murder.
Corporal Paul Long, 24, from South Tyneside, was one of six Red Caps training local police officers in the Iraqi town of Majar al-Kabir when the station was besieged by a mob of 300 civilians.