The man once known as Britain’s biggest bankrupt, Willi Stern, died this weekend from coronavirus, according to reports from the strictly Orthodox community.
Hungarian-born Mr Stern, known as “Zev”, was a survivor of Belsen who came to Britain as a refugee. He took control of Britain’s largest private sector landlord, the Freshwater group, in the 1960s, and then launched the Stern Property Group. But his empire collapsed in the 1974 crash with debts of about £143m. In 1978, Mr Stern was personally bankrupted with debts of about £118m.
The collapse of the Stern group led directly to the creation of the Policyholder’s Protection Act.
He was discharged as a bankrupt in 1987 and continued in business until a second commercial empire under his control collapsed in the 1990s with debts of £11 million.
In 2000, Mr Stern was again in the public eye when he was banned as serving as a company director for 12 years. A court was told that he had appropriated £1.5 million from the business despite his prior knowledge that it was on the brink of failure. Mr Stern denied this charge but the court found against him.
Mr Stern was 85, and at the time of his second banning he was reportedly living in Golders Green with a home in Jerusalem and a villa in the south of France.
A 97 year-old woman, Rina Feldman, is also understood to have died from coronavirus over the weekend. A third seriously ill member of the strictly Orthodox community is believed to be in intensive care in Manchester.