The former chairman of the Patisserie Valerie chain has described its collapse as “a business tragedy” and described how the experience made him physically ill.

Luke Johnson, writing in the Sunday Times, said the company’s demise was “horribly rapid” after it went into administration last year. A £94m black hole was found in the firm’s accounts in March and the company’s former finance director, Chris Marsh, was arrested and is understood to be under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.

Most of the business was subsequently sold to Irish private equity firm Causeway Capital Partners, which bought 96 of its 121 shops, saving around 2,000 jobs.

Johnson said in his column for the Sunday Times: “If I was arrogant at times before, my ego has taken quite a battering since. A very public disaster such as this shatters your self-belief. You think you’re constructing a reasonably well-ordered life, and then in a matter of a couple of days it all starts to unravel.”

“The stress made me physically ill — I suffered a series of debilitating infections and was on antibiotics for weeks. I had chronic insomnia and felt exhausted and despairing… Of course, I was far from the only one who had suffered: staff lost their jobs, and suppliers and investors lost money. The whole episode was a business tragedy. A number of us tried to save the company, but in the end the problems were too deep.”

But Johnson, who is still involved in bakery chain Gail’s as well as Brompton bicycles, said he was not ready to give up on this career.

“It’s taken me almost nine months to come to terms with what happened. I know that I was not dishonest. I was unaware of fraud. My life will always be influenced by Patisserie Holdings, but does that mean I should give up my 35-year career in business? I don’t think so,” he said.

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