‘My best friend cost me £1.2m and 350 jobs’

James Burdall MD of Out of Town Leisure Group
James Burdall MD of Out of Town Leisure Group

Sheffield businessman Lawrence Wosskow is reflecting how he - and 350 of his staff - paid the price when his closest friend defrauded him of around £1.2m.

He left James William Burdall to oversee his businesses, the Out of Town Leisure Group and Bradwells Ice Cream, after suffering a heart attack in 2006 and emigrating with his family.

From the start, Burdall transferred funds from the accounts of Mr Wosskow’s companies to the accounts of his own business.

Much of the money went to his personal accounts where it was used to fund a lavish lifestyle, including an indoor swimming pool and landscaped gardens at his home, private school fees and fine art.

Mr Wosskow had no idea that his friend was draining the funds until he received information from a business associate.

It resulted in Out of Town Leisure Group, which had outlets in Meadowhall’s Oasis food court, going into administration.

Some 350 staff arrived one day to find the shutters down.

The ice cream firm was only just saved.

Burdall, aged 49, of Cottage Lane, Bents Green, is starting four years in prison after being sentenced at Sheffield Crown Court, having admitted four counts of fraud by abuse of position.

Mr Wosskow said he had placed all his trust in James Burdall and the actions of his former friend had had a devastating impact on him and his family.

He said: “James and I had been friends since our schooldays and, after our paths went in separate directions, we met up again in 2005 through a mutual love of cycling.

“We quickly became best friends and, when I suffered a heart attack a year later, James was very supportive.

“He became my closest friend and, when me and my family emigrated for the good of my health, he was the person I thought could be best trusted to oversee my businesses.

“His actions have had a huge impact on my health and also my finances, as when the Out of Town group was placed into administration Bradwells ice cream company was also in a very precarious position.

“Owing to a promise I had made when buying the company in 1992, I had no choice but to honour that promise and save the company – which I did by injecting a considerable sum of money into it.

“I am very glad that he has now been brought to justice and will pay for his crimes, which left hundreds of hard-working people out of work through no fault of their own.”