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Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Crimson Fine Wines – two directors banned 20 years in total


Craig Cooper and Jefferey Kushner, the two directors of Crimson Fine Wines Ltd, which was closed in the public interest on 17th August 2015 in the High Court in London, have been banned from acting as directors of UK companies for a total of 20 years. 

The company was incorporated was incorporated on 21st February 2011 with Craig Cooper and Jeffrey Kushner as directors. Cooper was only very briefly a director resigning on 23rd March 2011. However, as Kushner is resident in Canada, it was Cooper who ran the company. 


Crimson's explanation of the advantages of wine investment:

Crimson Fine Wines investment pitch did indeed turn out to be a 'story' with unfortunate investors owed £989,258 in unpurchased wine. 


Press release from The Insolvency Service:

'Directors’ conduct in fine wine investment scam leaves sour taste 

Two directors of a company that traded in fine wines have been disqualified for a combined 20 years, following an Insolvency Service investigation. 

Customers who thought they were investing in fine wines investment scheme have been left out of pocket by nearly £1 million.

The investigation by the Insolvency Service found that Crimson Fine Wines Limited, based initially in London and then in Sittingbourne in Kent, used cold calling tactics and then failed to purchase or allocate wines to customers who had paid for their investments. The scheme offered investors returns over 12 months to five years, at a time when they claimed the property market and shares were less attractive.

The Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy accepted disqualification undertakings from Craig Cooper and Jefferey Kushner, preventing them from acting as directors for 11 and 9 years respectively.

Kushner was the listed director of Crimson Fine Wines Limited but lived in Canada, and allowed Cooper, who had previous experience in the industry, to run the operation.

As a result of this failure, at the time of liquidation of Crimson Fine Wines Limited there was insufficient wine held in the bonded warehouse to satisfy customers’ claims.

Additionally, Cooper used the company’s bank account for his own personal benefit, used his own personal bank account for the receipt of company funds and was paid at least one third share of £114,106 in dividends. Kushner was negligent in failing to monitor the company account, allowing it to be used for non-commercial benefits, but also received at least one third share of £114,106 in dividends.

Customer claims in the liquidation totalled £989,258, of the overall debts on liquidation of £1,080,724.

Karen Jackson, Official Receiver, said:

One of the main purposes of the Company Directors Disqualification Act is to ensure proper standards of conduct of company directors are maintained and to raise those standards where appropriate.

These disqualifications should serve as a reminder that the Insolvency Service will investigate unacceptable conduct by company directors.

The Insolvency Service will take action against directors who do not take their obligations seriously and abuse their position.

Notes to editors

Jeffrey Kushner’s date of birth is December 1980 and he resides in Ontario, Canada.
Craig Cooper’s date of birth is January 1983 and he resides in Chatham, Kent.

Crimson Fine Wines Ltd (CRO No. 07537346) was incorporated on 15 January 2008 and latterly traded from Sears Business Centre, 3-9 Station Street, Sittingbourne, United Kingdom, ME10 3DU.

Cooper was initially appointed as the company’s co-director with Kushner from incorporation on 1 February 2011. Cooper then resigned as a director at Companies House on 22 March 2011 but continued to act as a director until the company went into liquidation on 17 August 2015. The estimated deficiency at the date of Liquidation was £1,080,724.

On 18 July 2017, the Secretary of State accepted a Disqualification Undertaking from Craig Cooper, effective from 8 August 2017, for 11 years.

On 25 May 2017, the Secretary of State accepted a Disqualification Undertaking from Jeffrey Kushner, effective from 15 June 2017, for 9 years.

A disqualification order has the effect that without specific permission of a court, a person with a disqualification cannot:

  • act as a director of a company
  • take part, directly or indirectly, in the promotion, formation or management of a company or limited liability partnership
  • be a receiver of a company’s property
Disqualification undertakings are the administrative equivalent of a disqualification order but do not involve court proceedings.
Persons subject to a disqualification order are bound by a range of other restrictions.'


Saturday, 13 May 2017

Montevino Partners Ltd bust for £1.5 million

'A wine merchant you can trust' 
Yes! ... to go bust owing £1.5 million 

Thomas White – sole director of Spirited Ventures Ltd 
and Montevino Partners Ltd

At its creditors' meeting on 28th April 2017 Thomas White, sole director of Montevino Partners Ltd, revealed in his Statement of Affairs, that the company had debts of just under £1.5 million.  

The Statement of Affairs has yet to appear on Companies House website*. However, the following figures were provided by a creditor who attended the 28th April meeting.  

From the £1.465 million of total debt, 53 individuals are owed £946,166 with trade customers owed £450,166 and HMRC £62,743. I assume that the 53 individuals are unfortunate investors, who thought they were buying wine from Montevino Partners but who now find that their wine was never bought and quite probably never ordered. 

I understand that White has chosen to blame Brexit for the company's problems. All very convenient! However, I cannot see how Brexit prevents a company placing orders for wine for which they have received payment. 

Take, for example, the invoice sent an investor who has sunk over £100,000 in Montevino Partners for no wine. This invoice was sent out on 4th July acknowledging receipt of £76,320 for 636 bottles of Poderi Gianni Gagliardo Barolo Serre. The investor was assured that 'We will now begin the Wine transfer process. You will be kept up to date every step of the way.' 

Unforgivably this Barolo was never ordered from Stefano Gagliardo as the producer confirmed in email on 20th January 2017. Gagliardo explains that in June 2016 he had a visit from people from Montevino Partners: it was 'in June 2016. Since then, I never received feedback, reservations or orders. Please double check, because if they sold you Barolo Serre 10 Anni ’09, ’10, ‘11, it means they sold something they never bought.'  

This is the second  company that traded as Montevino Partners to go bust. Spirited Ventures Ltd was the first going into liquidation in July 2016 with declared debts of £691,326. However, due to White's failure to list individual creditors it is not known what the real deficiency for Spirited Ventures Ltd. White's two Montevino companies have now racked up debts of at least £2,156,326. 

Thomas White has been proposing to set another phoenix company where his salary would be an eye-watering £84,500 in 2017 and a reduced salary of just £53,500 reduced as he would accept a dividend. Presumably it is White's ambition to rack up an even bigger debt when this new phoenix company in turn goes bust. Incredibly, despite all the evidence to the contrary, White had persuaded a few presumably desperate individual creditors to back this third company. 

Details of backing – Thomas White (13th February 2017):

'With regards to the feedback from the group, at this point the highlights are :

- We have 4/6 that are prepared to assist financially to start a Newco. 

- We have further 7 that are willing to support the firm and assist in its success but at this time are unable to contribute to the set up.

So I'm hopeful that will be sorted ASAP.

- The rest of the group have at this point showed no interest or have opted out.'

It is not clear whether White's proposed new phoenix company is still being readied for 'take-off'. I hope the scale of the combined losses (£2.15 million) racked up by Spirited Ventures Ltd and Montevino Partners Ltd will have persuaded them that White only has a reverse Midas touch. They should conclude that it makes no sense to throw more good money after bad. 

* Update 15.5.17) Companies House now lists that these documents have been received (15.5.17) and that they will be available within five days.    

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Montevino Partners Ltd – into liquidation (28th April 2017) + various updates including 'antics'

.... going bust .....

As already reported by investdrinks Thomas Roger White has decided to put Montevino Partners Ltd, the phoenix company of Spirited Ventures Ltd that traded as Montevino Partners, into voluntary liquidation. Spirited Ventures Ltd went into liquidation in July 2016 before being wound up in the High Court in August 2016. 

The creditors' meeting for Montevino Partners Ltd will be on April 28th 2017 at the Wenta Business Centre, 1 Electric Avenue, Enfield EN3 7XU, on 28 April 2017, at 11:00 am:

It was notable that in the statement of affairs for Spirited Ventures Ltd White failed to make a complete declaration of all creditors. He left out an unknown number of the company's private investors who had paid for wine they did not receive. It is still not clear whether this omission by White was deliberate or just down to incompetence. 

Mark Ireson of the Insolvency Service is currently investigating White's failure to list all the creditors with regard to Spirited Ventures Ltd. I understand from Ireson that a liquidator has now been appointed to wind up Spirited Ventures Ltd. Details: Andrew Kelsall and Lee Green of Larking Gowen Chartered Accountants,  King Street House, 15 Upper King Street, Norwich NR3 1RB [0845 077 4165;]. Creditors can claim by contacting the liquidators.
I trust that White's statement of affairs for Montevino Partners Ltd will be this time be properly comprehensive and list all creditors. Practice they say makes perfect!

White's statement should include the investor who bought around £70,000 worth of Barolo but who has never received their wine. Hardly surprising when no order was placed with the producer....   

White's statement of affairs for Montevino Partners will be available free through Companies House's excellent Beta Service. I suspect I will not be alone in reading this statement with keen interest... 

Montevino Partners – Mark 3
To date there appears to be no sign of the promised Montevino Partners Mark 3

Thomas White has been promising potential backers of this new venture that he will be instructing solicitors to put forward a case for defamation in relation to my various posts about the Montevino Partners saga. 

Here are a selection of email messages from Thomas White to potential supporters of his latest venture:   
'Also have instructed them to look into Jim Budd what can be done to stifle him to stop him damaging the Newco before we start.'  (Thomas White: 20.2.17)
'And I will be engaging the solicitor to continue to look at Mr J Budds (sic) antics, I don't wish him to jeopardise what we are trying to do, we require fair treatment.' (Thomas White: 22.2.17)

'I am still awaiting the full feedback from solicitor regarding the defamation posts online and what can be done or the approach that is best to take. It is a frustrating delay but I'm sure you agree that I wish to make sure that before we launch our new ship for its voyage beyond the harbour, we should check what the weathers like at open sea and if any storms are likely from Mr Budd.

So I will be actively chasing this advice down next week, so will update again when possible.' (Thomas White – early March 2017).

Despite Mr White's 'active chasing' I have yet to receive any communication from any solicitor acting for Thomas White, who I invited in February 2017 to inform me what he believed was 'defamatory' in my posts. To date I have received no reply from White. Probably hardly surprising as my posts are largely based on material that White himself has filed with Companies House.

Has White's intention to launch a third 'Montevino Partners' been slowed by the very welcome investigation by the The Insolvency Service or has White perhaps failed to convince enough clients of Montevino Partners to sink more good money after bad? Have they looked at White's record as a director at Companies House and concluded that 'third time lucky' is a gamble too far? 

We will see ....