High Street GRP’s Murky Swamp. Part 1.
Where do we start with High Street GRP? It’s such a dirty business. This article is going to look at the administration process. Our next article will then move on to some of the parties currently manipulating the unfortunate HSG investors.
High Street GRP Ltd jumped into administration before investors could wind up the company. We had a few communications with Paul Buzzeo of HSG a man who, in our opinion, had been given a position way above his competency level. This may have been due to the fact that his partner was Gary Forrest’s secretary. HSG was aware that some of our clients were about to file a winding up petition over the company and we are aware of other investors who were intending to do it at the same time. It’s possible that someone had already filed a petition. From our communications with Mr Buzzeo it wasn’t clear that he had a full grasp of legal matters. He had trained as a paralegal, but for some reason was given the top job as HSG’s legal representative. At that time HSG was claiming to be worth more than £1 billion so we were surprised it wasn’t using a proper, qualified lawyer.
What are the options for a company that knows a winding up petition is coming ? One of them is for the directors to voluntarily place the company into administration. This prevents a winding up petition from being filed and enables company directors to retain an element of control over the process. Investors tend to believe that once a company goes into administration or liquidation they can expect honesty and transparency from the appointed insolvency firms. They expect a thorough investigation into the money trail and director conduct on a strictly unbiased and impartial basis. They expect full disclosure.
It doesn’t take long for them to realise that not all insolvency practitioners adhere to those principles. When an insolvency firm is appointed by company directors it is well aware that creditors have the power to appoint a Joint Administrator of their choosing. Creditors can even remove the directors’ chosen insolvency firm and appoint their own. So…. to protect their appointment and depending on the ethics of the insolvency firm, the directors’ chosen firm ensures that when they are appointed they already have a Joint Administrator in place i.e another supposedly separate and independent insolvency firm that they’ve come to an agreement with. This makes it extremely difficult for creditors to remove one of the firms and appoint a firm of their choosing.
The problem is that a joint administrator is often NOT as independent as it ought to be. Quite often there’s an old pals act going on i.e “we’ll appoint your firm as joint administrator in our cases and you appoint us as joint administrator in your cases”. It happens all the time. This isn’t how insolvency is supposed to work, but clever people come up with clever workarounds. We don’t know whether Insolve Plus was chosen by SKSi as Joint Adminstrator or not. At the moment we think it probably wasn’t.
So, is the High Street GRP administration a crystal clear, healthy pond or is it starting to smell of a murky swamp? Is it honest and transparent ? Let’s take a look.
1. A man call Stuart Thomas Niven has been a director of 36 companies according to this record at Companies House. Gary Forrest has been a co-director in 16 of those companies. One of the companies was High Street GRP Ltd. Mr Niven was a director for 5 years. At the time there were four shareholders in High Street GRP Ltd. They were Gary Forrest and his wife (owning 80%) and Mr Niven and his wife (owning 20%). It’s fair to say Stuart Niven and Gary Forrest have known each other for a long time and their business interests have been aligned in a lot of companies.
2. Stuart Niven’s LinkedIn profile does not mention any of these companies. Here is a link to his LinkedIn profile. It describes Stuart Niven as “Director of PCR Insolvency”. There is a link on the profile which says “websites”. When you click on that button it brings up three websites linked to Mr Niven. They are www.thehighstreetgroup.com, www.pcrinsolvency.co.uk and www.hsbf.com. This proves that the Stuart Niven of PCR Insolvency is the same man who was director of High Street GRP Ltd and 15 other Gary Forrest companies.
3. When you click on the www.pcrinsolvency.co.uk link it takes you to the website of the insolvency firm called SKSi (www.sksi.co.uk). That’s not surprising because here’s an announcement about the merger in March 2021.
4. This is where it gets swampy. SKSi is the insolvency firm appointed as Administrator for High Street GRP Ltd. The next article looks at how they came to be appointed. Gary Forrest was intrinsically linked to Stuart Niven of PCR Insolvency which later merged to become the new firm called SKSi.
There’s no evidence that Stuart Niven has any influence over the High Street GRP administration but isn’t it all very convenient. We can’t help wondering whether SKSi will interview Stuart Niven and other PCR Insolvency members as part of their investigation into the affairs of the company, some of whom may even be part of SKSi right now. That would be interesting. [Update – our next article covers some of those people].
We note from the Administrator’s Report on High Street GRP that they only list the directors going back three years so there is no mention of Stuart Niven. They only mention Gary Forrest and Gavin Fraser. Stuart Niven was the only other director so it would have been simple to have added him to the list for full disclosure of the company’s history.
Bearing in mind the very close links between Gary Forrest and Stuart Niven it’s a possibility that High Street GRP was a client of PCR Insolvency. It may have transferred its business to SKSi in March 2021. This is definitely something creditors should be asking because it may give rise to a potential conflict of interest. Whichever way you look at it, it isn’t a particularly healthy position for creditors and it calls into question whether they are going to get an honest, thorough and transparent investigation. It is worth raising that point.
We also note that James Cowper Kreston were instructed by HSG six months prior to the administration to “restructure” the company. In our experience of bond scams a “restructuring” normally means the company is looking for ways to shaft ordinary investors whilst ensuring the major lenders maintain their protections. It generally involves an opaque, fake and legally questionable voting process where the declared outcome is that investors have always voted in favour of the company’s proposal. Yeah, right.
There is never any oversight (other than occasionally from the bent security trustee which is in the pocket of the company). In the case of HSG, the scam was so imbedded into its corporate DNA that it couldn’t hand over information to JCK because it would have exposed HSG as a scam, so no transparent restructuring process was possible.
One of the key questions investors will want answered is “was the entire HSG structure a ponzi scheme and if so, who was party to it”?
A future article on High Street GRP’s Murky Swamp will look at the parties fighting to sign up and manipulate investors. Some of them we regard as swamp dwellers.
To view our previous article from November 2021 please click on this LINK.
High Street GRP’s Murky Swamp.