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FERGIE: HOW I LOST pounds 3M; Duchess claims she was duped by firm.

Byline: LAUREN CROOKS

THE Duchess of York was "taken for a ride" as her business plunged towards disastrous pounds 3million losses, pals claimed yesterday.

Sources said Sarah Ferguson, who is facing bankruptcy, was concerned at the lavish spending by a company set up to sell her as a worldwide brand - before it collapsed with huge debts.

New York-based Hartmoor LLC, which ran for just 18 months, went under owing around pounds 3.2million.

Fergie launched the firm with a string of high-profile investors in 2006 in a bid to make a comeback from a series of scandals about her personal life.

She planned for the company to make her a household brand - with her name being used on a variety of products including jewellery, weight loss items and candles. But friends say Fergie was worried about the amount of cash being spent on the firm's offices and wages.

One source said: "Sarah may have been naive but she feels a lot of people have taken her for a ride.

"She went from being a successful businesswoman to earning nothing."

The duchess signed away the intellectual property rights to her name to the company - whose 18 investors included Findus tycoon Geir Frantzen, Wall Street banker J Todd Morley and Irish newspaper magnate Tony O'Reilly.

But despite owning 51 per cent of the company, she had little to do with the day-to-day running of the business.

Spending included plush offices in Madison Avenue and a rented apartment for her, overlooking Central Park.

Friend say she also expressed concern about the number of staff taken on, including relatives of some investors. But one investor said: "She just wasn't prepared to put the work in. We didn't see her for months at a time."

The collapse left her in the same financial mess she was in a decade ago. And now she fears advisers of her former husband, the Duke of York, will persuade her to file for bankruptcy because of the outstanding debts.

A close friend said: "Andrew's people are trying to convince her to take bankruptcy but she is fighting them all the way."

And James Henderson, spokesman for the duchess, said: "There is a financial review under way and as part of that voluntary bankruptcy is an option.

"But she is trying to work through this without taking that option."

SUNDAY EMAIL reporters@sundaymail.co.uk.

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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 15, 2010
Words:400
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