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Antiquorum’s founder Osvaldo Patrizzi, who is now suing his former firm for wrongful dismissal and launching a rival. Meanwhile, Antiquorum’s new owners are counter-suing.

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Just as ousted chairman Osvaldo Patrizzi, who founded the firm in 1974, announced the launch of his new auction company, Patrizzi & Co Auctioneers, Antiquorum's new owners said that they had filed further charges against Mr Patrizzi and several of his colleagues, and were now claiming SFr43m from them.

The public face-off between the two sides started last August.

Patrizzi had sold 50 per cent of the company to the Japanese publishers ArtistHouse in January 2007, allegedly for $30m. After a very short honeymoon period it became apparent that the new part-owners did not agree with Patrizzi's management style. Things came to a head in August, when the new board of directors voted to remove Patrizzi from his post while he was away on holiday.

Not surprisingly, Patrizzi was not amused and filed a suit for unfair dismissal. Several of the top members of his staff, among them chief operating officer Marc Schumacher, resigned in protest. Whilst Antiquorum's new management struggled to reassure the market, Patrizzi withdrew from the public eye.

At the beginning of April he announced the founding of a new company, Patrizzi & Co Auctioneers. Back on board is Marc Schumacher, as are several of the old Antiquorum team.

The new company hopes to profit from their long-term connections to buyers and sellers from all over the world and also to attract new customers by not charging a buyer's premium and guaranteeing the authenticity of the watches they sell for five years. The first auction is scheduled for the autumn in Geneva.

Next year Patrizzi & Co plan to hold further sales in Hong Kong and New York, the traditional stamping grounds of Antiquorum.

It was no coincidence that Antiquorum issued a press release of their own the day before Patrizzi's press conference, claiming "the detection of the orchestration of a massive fraud" committed by the company's former management.

There is talk of sloppy bookkeeping, the transfer of funds to Patrizzi's private account and the disappearance of several valuable watches from the company's safes. Antiquorum have filed new civil and criminal charges with the disputed amount SFr43m (£22.2m).

Patrizzi & Co are preparing counter-suits of their own.

By Jonathan Franks