Medicinal cannabis tycoon Dr Pot asks couple to leave £7m farm after ‘trespassing’

A couple says they fear being left “totally homeless” after losing a court fight with a company run by a medicinal cannabis tycoon, which claims they’ve been trespassing for more than three years.

Wedding planner Alo Brake, 56, and husband Andrew, 57, transformed a sprawling West Axnoller farm from a derelict site to a £7million wedding venue near Beaminster, Dorset – where Game of Thrones star Sean Bean married his fifth wife.

In 2017 the farm was sold to a company run by medicinal cannabis entrepreneur Dr Geoffrey Guy (known as ‘Dr Pot’) following money troubles stemming from the 2008 financial crisis.

The Brakes claim he promised not to evict them for at least five years, which has been rubbished by a High Court judge.

Dr Guy, 57, made his fortune after founding GW Pharmaceuticals, which is known for its multiple sclerosis treatment derived from the cannabis plant.

Andrew Brake outside the Court of Appeal



Alo Brake outside the Court of Appeal in a battle over Axnoller House



At first the couple continued to work for Dr Guy in the wedding business and lived in Axnoller House or a nearby cottage when an event was taking place.

By November 2018, they had been fired and told to leave the house by the cannabis tycoon.

It escalated into a mammoth four-year court battle which resulted in the Brakes being told to leave Axnoller House by the Court of Appeal last week.

Lord Justice Arnold rejected an application to appeal an earlier decision of the High Court, leaving the couple facing eviction before the end of the month.

Mrs Brake told the judge she feared the decision would leave the family “totally homeless” because their assets remain frozen due to the legal row, and they will struggle to rent because they own a dog.

But for Dr Guy’s company, barrister Niraj Modha said the Brakes had effectively been “trespassing” on the farm for more than three years, costing the tycoon about £320,000 in lost revenue.

Dr Geoffrey Guy is a pioneer in medicinal cannabis treatments (stock image)



According to Judge Paul Matthews in a ruling in the battle earlier this year, Mrs Brake bought the picturesque farm in September 2004.

At the time it was derelict, but with the help of her husband she transformed it into a holiday letting business and high-class wedding venue, with an adjoining horse ‘arena.’

However the credit crunch of 2008 forced the couple into looking for outside investment, leading them to form a partnership with a businesswoman in 2010 and contribute the farm as their stake.

The partnership ultimately failed and the farm was in 2015 sold by receivers to another company, a corporate vehicle for Mrs Brake’s friend, The Hon Saffron Foster, daughter of the third Lord Vestey.

The farm was then sold again in July 2017, passing to Dr Guy’s company, The Chedington Court Estate Ltd, for more than £7million.

Initially, Mrs Brake continued running the wedding and accommodation business, but the relationship between the parties “broke down” and the Brakes were both sacked and told to leave in November 2018.

Dr Guy founded GW Pharmaceuticals, known for its multiple sclerosis treatments derived from the cannabis plant (stock image)



But they refused, claiming they had a right to stay there because Mr Brake was an agricultural tenant and relying on alleged promises that they would be allowed to stay on.

In evidence, the couple said that Mrs Foster had bought the farm as a means to ensure they kept their home and made “assurances” in 2015 that they would not have to leave.

Mr Brake said in evidence: “Saffron has told us that her main aim was to protect us and allow us to continue living as we always had done at the farm.

“I regard her as one of the most honorable people that I have met.”

The couple claimed that when the property was then sold to Dr Guy’s company in 2017, assurances had been made to the effect that he would not evict them for at least five years and not without paying enough compensation to allow them to find a new property.

At the High Court in February, Judge Matthews ruled that Mr Brake was not an agricultural tenant because the farmland he tended was simply a “stage set” for the wedding business.

There had also never been an assurance that they could stay on, neither by Mrs Foster nor Dr Guy.

In buying the farm through her company, Mrs Foster had in fact been a “nominee” for Mrs Brake, having effectively “lent her name” for the purchase, the judge found.

Negotiations for the sale to Dr Guy’s company had been conducted almost exclusively by Mrs Brake and the Brakes had taken about three million from the proceeds of the sale, he said.

He said: “In my judgment, taking into account not only these points but all the evidence, it is clear beyond doubt that the 2015 assurances were never given.

“For the avoidance of doubt, I make clear that this conclusion covers not only the house, but also the arena, and indeed the rest of the farm.”

During discussions about buying it, Dr Guy had simply been told that the couple sometimes stayed at Axnoller House when weddings were not taking place as a “perk” of their employment.

He continued: “I find that there was no discussion of the Brakes being entitled to occupy Axnoller House or the arena.

“An astute businessman such as Dr Guy would have noticed immediately if there had been.

“I conclude as a fact that no such promise was ever made, whether on any particular occasion or taking the relevant events together and looking at them as a whole. Nor did Dr Guy do or say anything which could reasonably have created in the Brakes an expectation equivalent to such a promise.”

Instead, what happened was that Dr Guy had been content for the couple to continue to sometimes use the house and to keep their horses in the arena on a non-exclusive basis.

Appealing against the judge’s ruling last week, Mrs Brake – who represented the couple herself – argued that he had made several errors in deciding the legal argument in the case.

She claimed the judge had taken too narrow a definition of agriculture when deciding that Mr Brake was not an agricultural tenant of the farm.

Additionally, she said there had been “procedural unfairness” in the High Court trial which resulted in the finding that Mrs Foster had been acting as her “nominee” when purchasing the farm in 2015.

Lord Justice Arnold said none of Mrs Brake’s arguments had any hope of overturning Judge Matthews’ decisions.

I have rejected their appeal application, allowing an eviction notice to take effect from April 21.

A dispute between the Brakes and Dr Guy’s company over possession of a cottage close to the farm, where the couple had stayed during events but is now in Chedington Court’s hands, is set to be decided by the Court of Appeal at a later date.

The couple claim they were wrongly evicted from the cottage and have been given permission to argue their case in a full appeal.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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