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Becker bankruptcy finally discharged after 7 year gestation period

Boris Becker was originally made bankrupt in June 2017. In the ordinary course, a debtor is made bankrupt for a period of one year, and upon the anniversary of the bankruptcy order they are automatically discharged. While a bankrupt is undischarged, they are subject to various restrictions e.g. they are unable to act as company director or be involved in the management, promotion or formation of a business. Once discharged, the debtor can (in theory) start to rebuild their life afresh while their pre-bankruptcy assets remain in the hands of their trustee in bankruptcy (the Trustee).  The Trustee will continue to investigate any pre-bankruptcy transactions and attempt to realise the bankruptcy assets for the benefit of the creditors beyond the bankrupt’s discharge. However, in the curious case of the Boris Becker bankruptcy, Mr Becker finally received his discharge only recently, on 27 April 2024, nearly seven years after the bankruptcy order was originally made. So why the delay?

Suspension of discharge

Where a bankrupt has failed to cooperate with their Trustee, the Trustee has the power to apply to court to suspend the bankrupt’s automatic discharge for either a fixed period or until the fulfilment of set conditions. This might be appropriate where, for example, there has been a failure to engage with the Trustee’s enquiries, or attend an interview, where material assets or income have been concealed, or where the Trustee requires more time to apply for a bankruptcy restrictions order. While we can only guess as to the reasons for the suspension of his discharge, lack of cooperation and concealment of assets is a common cause. It should also be noted that during the period of his bankruptcy, Mr Becker entered into a bankruptcy restrictions undertaking in 2019 (which will continue until 2031) and in 2022 he was convicted of a number of offences under the Insolvency Act 1986 (the Act) and sentenced to 18 months in prison. After serving 10 months in prison, Mr Becker was deported to Germany and is apparently unable to return to the UK until June 2025 (just in time for Wimbledon that year…). 

Mr Becker’s discharge from bankruptcy was suspended indefinitely in 2018, and his recent discharge follows his application to court to lift that suspension. In the meantime, the bankruptcy restriction undertaking (imposing restrictions on elements of Mr Becker’s conduct) is due to continue until 2031.

Criteria for lifting the suspension

Often, when a bankrupt’s discharge is suspended, the suspension is set for a specified period (e.g. 12 months). However, Mr Becker’s discharge was suspended until the fulfilment of certain conditions, details of which have not been made public, which required him to make a court application to obtain his discharge. The court’s judgment notes that Mr Becker asserted that he had complied with his obligations under the Act to the best of his abilities (a statement which the Trustees did “not feel able to positively confirm”) and that he had reached a confidential settlement with his Trustees relating to post-bankruptcy debts. The Trustees were neutral to Mr Becker’s application to lift the suspension of his discharge.

On lifting the suspension of discharge, the court held that the relevant question was whether there was sufficient evidence to support a successful application to suspend discharge; it concluded here, on the facts, there was not.  The court should also give reasonable weight to the report of the Trustees and consider whether (objectively viewed) the debtor had done all that they could reasonably do in the circumstances to fulfil any outstanding obligation that had previously been identified. The court also noted as an aside that there was no requirement within the Act that the discharge from bankruptcy was conditional upon full compliance with the debtor’s obligations under the Act. 

The court’s decision to lift the suspension on discharge finally brought an end to the Becker bankruptcy’s unusually long gestation.


restructuring and insolvency