High Street GRP’s Swamp Gets Murkier.
Following yesterday’s article – LINK HERE we have dug deeper into the administration of High Street GRP Ltd (which also ended up expanding a little bit into Gary Forrest’s other companies).
Yesterday’s article explained the extensive business relationship between Stuart Niven of PCR Insolvency and Gary Forrest of High Street GRP Ltd. The PCR companies merged with two other companies to become SKSi in March 2021.
SKSi was appointed as Joint Administrator of High Street GRP Ltd in December 2021 after a contested administration application. It is also Joint Administrator of other Gary Forrest companies which form part of the HSG portfolio. An arms-length, independent appointment with full disclosure ? We think not.
We asked in our previous article whether a conflict of interest arose on the part of SKSi due to Stuart Niven’s involvement in both HSG and PCR, considering that PCR was a founding entity in SKSi. There was clearly an attempt to be able to cover that base by appointing Insolve Plus as Joint Administrator. This enables an administrator to say “we can’t possibly abuse the insolvency process because there’s a second IP which provides independent oversight”. By appointing a Joint Administrator at the start it deprives the majority of creditors of the opportunity to appoint their own preferred insolvency firm. This assumes that Insolve Plus, the appointed Joint Administrator, was SKSi’s first choice and wasn’t foisted upon them by one or more influential creditors. Insolvency firms appointed by company directors are often appointed to protect the interests of the directors as much as they can within the confines of the law, and they tend not to like creditors being able to dig too deeply into the company’s affairs. We are starting to think that Insolve Plus would not have been SKSi’s first choice. We think they might have preferred James Cowper Kreston, but their hands may have been tied.
A few weeks ago, the Joint Administrators published their Statement Of Administrator’s Proposals. Anyone who is interested can download it themselves from the Companies House website via this LINK. It’s quite a surprising tale the administrators tell. According to the report, poor Gary Forrest had a great business which was going to be very successful, but was killed off due to Covid-19 and the subsequent bad press of defaulting on loan repayments. There’s barely a mention of long overdue company accounts (2 years plus) or auditors refusing to work with HSG, or the potential for the whole HSG structure being a ponzi scheme. It’s really an odd report because we expected a more honest assessment of the failings. Perhaps they were just giving Gary Forrest’s side of the story at this early stage. Or maybe they had another reason…. Let’s hope that it doesn’t turn out to be a whitewash. Based on our findings below we think that is a distinct possibility.
We found the following sections interesting:
Clauses 3.14, 3.15 and 3.16. In summary, James Cowper Kreston were appointed in March 2021 to assist in restructuring. The report says this did not progress beyond April. However, they were allegedly re-appointed in September 2021 and at that time it was the decision of JCK to bring in SKSi. The inference being that the people at SKSi had no prior involvement with HSG or Gary Forrest before September 2021.
Clause 6.1 – Insolve Plus and SKSi have split the duties between them. No mention of which company is responsible for the investigation into director conduct, inter-company loans or recovery of unjust payments.
Clause 15.1 – “James Cowper Kreston were introduced to the Company [meaning High Street GRP], by Mr Daniel Allen of 360 Insolvency Ltd on 8th March 2021.”
Maybe that’s true, but there’s no mention of Daniel Allen’s history which SKSi would most certainly have known. Mr Daniel Allen was, until November 2019, a director of PCR (London) LLP. This company was the one which merged to form SKSi in March 2021, the same month that Mr Allen introduced James Cowper Kreston.
All the time Daniel Allen was a director of PCR (London) LLP, two other people were also directors of the company. PCR (London) is still in existence. It has not closed down. One of the directors is Julie Swan. She was appointed in 2011 and is still a director, but she also had other directorships over the past 10 years. For example, for 3 years between 2015 – 2018 she and Stuart Niven were the two directors of a company called Pro-Collect Ltd. So this provides a direct business relationship between a director of High Street GRP Ltd (Stuart Niven) and Julie Ann Swan (of PCR) and then to SKSi because of the alleged merger. We thought we’d find out what happened to Julie Swan after the merger. We didn’t have to look too far because the SKSi website tells us. “Our Construction Team is led by Julie Swan,”.
Another director of PCR (London) at that time was Mark Richard Phillips. He has also been a director since 2011. We came across this statement from the SKSi website “Our commercial property team is led by Mark Phillips”. Further down is another statement which ought to concern all creditors of any Gary Forrest company over which SKSi has been appointed – “Our Specialist Investigation team is led by Mark Phillips”. Oh dear – Mark Phillips is responsible for investigations. This is starting to look very murky indeed.
In yesterday’s article we asked the question whether Gary Forrest had maintained a relationship with PCR. It now seems absolutely clear that he did and it has been long term going back a decade or more.
The registered office of PCR (London) LLP is Unit 1, First Floor, Brook Business Centre, Cowley Mill Road, Cowley, Uxbridge, England, UB8 2FX. It has been there since January 2018.
Companies House records show the registered office of SKSi Ltd is 3 Sheen Road, Richmond Upon Thames, Surrey, England TW19 1AD.
However, on page 6 of the Administrator’s Report issued on 9th February 2022, the names and addresses of the Joint Administrators are given. For SKSi Ltd it says:
Carrie-Ann James of SKSi, Unit 1, First Floor, Brook Business Centre, Cowley Mill Road, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UB8 2FX. Well that’s interesting.
Furthermore, the registered office of High Street GRP Ltd was changed to that same Cowley Mill Road address by the Joint Administrators on 13th January 2022. What this suggests is that Carrie-Ann James is working out of the PCR office. So this beggars the question – who is really running this insolvency ? Is it SKSi or Gary Forrest’s mates at PCR ? In our previous article we questioned whether SKSi had a conflict of interest by being the administrator of the HSG group companies and it certainly looks that way.
Note: Companies House has no record of SKSi at the Cowley Mill Road address. It has never been their registered office. You can check it using THIS LINK.
So, to make this complex web as clear as we can, Gary Forrest had businesses with Stuart Niven of PCR for many years. Stuart Niven was a director of High Street GRP Ltd for 5 years and co-director in another 15 companies with Gary Forrest. PCR allegedly merged with Carrie-Ann James in March 2021 to form SKSi. Julie Swan and Mark Phillips have been directors of PCR (London) LLP since 2011 and are now employed at SKSi. Julie Swan and Stuart Niven were also co-directors in a company from 2015 to 2018, but she now works for SKSi. Daniel Allen was also a director of PCR (London) LLP, but now has his own firm called 360 Insolvency Ltd. Gary Forrest allegedly approached 360 Insolvency Ltd for help in early 2021. In March 2021, Daniel Allen introduced Gary Forrest to James Cowper Kreston allegedly to assist in restructuring the company. In the same month, PCR merged with Carrie-Ann James to become SKSi. The Administrator’s Report claims that nothing happened from that initial approach to JCK regarding the restructuring, but in September 2021 Gary Forrest allegedly came back to James Cowper Kreston. At that point JCK decided to bring in SKSi and it was at that time that they began talking about the administration of several Gary Forrest companies. PCR and SKSi appear to be based in the same registered office and SKSi made it the registered office of High Street GRP in January 2022, although there is no record at Companies House of this ever being the SKSi registered office. It is the PCR registered office.
Just to confuse matters, JCK and SCSi are joint administrators of other Gary Forrest companies! But that’s another story. The Administrator’s Report makes it look like SKSi had no knowledge of High Street GRP Ltd until September 2021. In our opinion this is nonsense and they know it.
We’re not convinced that the alleged merger with PCR (London) LLP ever really took place in March 2021. PCR (London) LLP is still in existence as a company. Every year, UK companies are required to file a Confirmation Statement showing the shareholders in the company. We would have expected the SKSi statement to show new shareholders e.g either PCR (London) LLP as a corporate shareholder in the new SKSi, or individuals from PCR who were issued shares. Who would merge their company with another one and not get any shares in the new company ? SKSi filed its Confirmation Statement which covered the period up to 5th December 2021, nine months after the alleged merger, and it shows there have been no changes to the shareholders.
Just for fun let’s imagine two alternative hypothetical scenarios.
GF: “I need help. My companies are in trouble and I need my friends to find me a way out of this mess. I don’t want my creditors to have any control and I want you to protect me from any in-depth investigation”.
PCR: “Sure Gary, but we have to be careful how we do this. We’re about to merge and become a new company called SKSi. We’d really love to have your business and of course we’ll do everything we can to help an old friend, but we all know where this is going to end. The companies won’t be able to survive so you have to be looking at damage limitation. If SKSi were to get involved with you right now it would damage our credibility for when we have to go to court for the administrations. We can use SKSi at that time and it’ll look like a new, independent insolvency firm with no links to you. We don’t want to give creditors any reason to object to the appointment of SKSi because if creditors find out about your links to PCR and our new structure with SKSi, they’ll be able to claim a conflict of interest and could persuade the Judge to allow creditors to appoint their own insolvency firm instead of us. You definitely don’t want creditors digging into the business. To make this work it has to appear that SKSi had never heard of you and we were brought in by a third party. I know what we’ll do. We’ll use Daniel Allen to make the introduction to a third party firm on the understanding that they bring SKSi in when the time is right. Daniel left us a few months ago and started a new firm. Go to him. He’ll introduce a friendly insolvency firm that will play ball. They’ll help you tidy up a few things and then when it’s time for an administration they’ll be the ones to ask SKSi to get involved. It won’t be you because that’ll make creditors take a much closer look at SKSi. This is how it’s usually done and nobody will be any the wiser”.
It’s an interesting viewpoint.
We love a good conspiracy theory because they occasionally turn out to be spot on. What if the merger itself was only proposed because they knew what was coming i.e a big HSG payday for a lucky insolvency firm. What if the merger was a smokescreen to enable PCR people to be involved in the HSG insolvencies ? The timing is incredible. Gary Forrest seeks help in March 2021 at the same time SKSi is formed. What a stroke of luck for all involved.
The High Street Group of companies has been in trouble for a long time. The group extends to almost 100 companies. Whichever insolvency firm is able to get appointed over these companies is going to make millions of pounds, probably in the region of £10 million when this is all finished. PCR would have loved this case. It would have given a few PCR people a very comfortable retirement but, ….. they couldn’t possibly take the case. PCR’s involvement with Gary Forrest would have been exposed straightaway and they would have been removed.
So what if this merger came about solely to allow the announcement of a new brand, SKSi, which includes PCR people, to engineer its appointment as an apparently independent third party with no history of involvement with Gary Forrest ? This would allow it to make those millions and benefit everyone involved, including Gary Forrest. Everyone makes money and Gary has friends on the inside. Wow, now that it’s written down it does make you think…… Let’s take it further. What if Gary or his friends want to buy the assets. They’d need friends in the insolvency firm.
Watch carefully who buys the assets. There’s clearly a lot of questionable activity around these insolvencies and some of the people involved will be trying to get the assets at knockdown prices. It helps if you’ve got friends on the inside.
The appointment of Insolve Plus as Joint Administrator of High Street GRP was a surprise. We’ll bet James Cowper Kreston was lined up for that one, just like the others. To our mind it looks like Insolve Plus might have been representing a few creditors and may have had some leverage over the appointment. They may have been the first to file a winding up petition which would not have been common knowledge because Covid restrictions were in place. This meant petitions could not be publicised so an investor could only find out when he/she filed their own petition and it was declined. A ‘live’ petition would have prevented Gary Forrest from putting High Street GRP in administration. Perhaps a little bit of horse-trading went on. We have to admit that this is pure conjecture, but it is worth creditors asking Insolve Plus exactly how they came to be appointed Joint Administrator of High Street GRP Ltd. If anyone is able to find out please let us know.
360 Insolvency has turned out to be a good name. Gary Forrest started this scam with PCR and 10 years later he’s been able to achieve a full 360 and get PCR people involved in investigating it ! We have to take our hat off to him. That’s quite an achievement and it took a tip-off about Stuart Niven being involved with HSG to get us to take a closer look.
Is there anyone who thinks there’ll be a proper investigation of the Gary Forrest companies, that the assets will be sold to arms-length buyers at fair market prices and that Gary Forrest will be genuinely held to account ? Not in this office, that’s for sure.
High Street GRP’s Swamp Gets Murkier.