wine-searcher

Wine Name:
Vintage:

Friday, 26 February 2010

Bordeaux Wine Company: Anthony Grant and Frederick Achom

Recently received enquiry from a potential investor 
I have been looking at your site and reading that Anthony Grant of Boington & Fredericks was convicted of fraud some 10 years ago  -  I am just wondering whether this is the same Anthony Grant that runs this company - http://www.bordeauxwinecompany.com/

My response
To the best of my knowledge Anthony Grant and Frederick Achom are partners in The Bordeaux Wine Company Ltd. They were directors of wine investment company Boington & Fredericks Ltd, which was wound up in the public interest on 16th January 2002. In May 2002 the Official Receivers summary showed an estimated total deficiency of £228,747. No wine was allocated to clients after October 2001. Turnover for October 2001 was approximately £147,000. B&F may also have failed to buy wine to cover some clients’ purchases in October 2001.

Frederick Achom and Anthony Grant were convicted of conspiracy to defraud following a trial at Southwark Crown Court, London that lasted from 5th June 2000 to 7th July 2000. They were sentenced to one year in prison on September 1st 2000. Achom and Grant were one of five defendants committed for trial at Bow Street Magistrates Court on 2nd July 1999. I understand hat the pair were released in early 2001.

Achom and Grant are both disqualified from holding UK directorships from 23.7.2002 to 22.7.2013.

The Bordeaux Wine Company was founded on 17th January 2002. Its annual return is currently a little overdue – it should have been filed on 14.2.2010.
(13.4.2010: The annual return has been filed.)

I have invited Antony Grant and Frederick Achom to comment.

Please click here for Anthony Grant's response.




Polarising market

Interesting comment from Peter Lunzer in Lunzer Wine Investments Ltd's February 2010 newsletter. 

'The market seems to be becoming more polarised than ever in that while top brands are continuing to attract buyers there is undoubtedly a huge stock of lesser Bordeaux Chateau from respectable vintages (as well as poor Vintages) for which the buyers are rather thin on the ground. This gives two different pictures of the market with some Merchants and Negotiants struggling to survive at the same time as record auction prices in Hong Kong and Chicago keep people guessing as to where the market may be heading. Once again finite supply and global demand are causing a natural pressure on prices and we can see no reason for this to abate.'

A reminder that the number of wines that can really be considered for investment remains small.

Friday, 19 February 2010

The Premier Bordeaux Wine Company

Enquiry:
'I have been contacted by this Company (The Premier Bordeaux Wine Company) and sent a somewhat impressive brochure. Wine is not an area I have invested in, so could you kindly give me advice on this Company.'

*
My response:
The Premier Bordeaux Wine Company was incorporated on 3rd December 2009 and its registered office is 788-790 Finchley Road, London NW11 7TI.

Its trading address from its website: www.tpbwc.com is

111 Buckingham Palace Road,
Victoria, London, SW1W 0SR. Telephone: 08000 114 219
Email: : info@TPBWC.com

The website was registered on 24th June 2009

(On 2nd December 2009 Premier Bordeaux Wines Ltd, believed also to offer wine investments, was incorporated with a registered office also at 788-790 Finchley Road, London NW11 7TI. Its website is 'undergoing total redevelopment'.

Clients are directing to their trading address: Premier Bordeaux Wines, 145-157 St John’s Street London EC1V 4PY
Tel: 0800 0114 219
Fax: 0845 226 4624
Email: info@premierbordeauxwines.com)

The Premier Bordeaux Wine Company's brochure suggests that the company has been around for rather than public records show:

Some extracts from the The Premier Bordeaux Wine Company brochure:
'The Premier Bordeaux Wine Company are passionate about the fine wine market and we are delighted with the tax free returns that we have achieved and continue to achieve on behalf of our clients. Our global network of contacts and strategic partners allow us to source the rarest and most sought after wines on behalf of our clients and puts us in the perfect position to sell their wine at any time.’

‘The Premier Bordeaux Wine Company is keen to secure large amounts of en primeur wines so that we have access to as many of the world’s greatest wines to sell at a future date. Securing wines at this stage provides us with the best opportunity to fulfil future orders.

Of equal importance, purchasing en primeur in significant quantities affords us significant purchasing power in the market meaning we can purchase wines at the best possible price.’

Their 'Income Investment Model that Yields 8.9%+ per annum':
  • ‘Up to 500 clients enter agreements with us on current and future en primeur campaigns by purchasing wine futures (each client is the legal owner of the wine he/she has purchased)
  • By buying en primeur wines in substantial quantities, TPBWC can obtain the most competitive price. Price differentials can vary by up to 10%.
  • TPBWC pays participating clients 8.9% of the total purchase price* (standards charges) in order to repurchase the wine at the same total purchase price in three years time (similar to a Repo transaction in the money markets).
  • After three years, TPBWC buys the wine back at the original purchase price.
  • The wine is independently valued.
  • If the wine’s value has increased from the total purchase price then TPBWC pays the client/seller a further 60% of any upward price movement from the (purchase price plus standard charges). TPBWC retains 40% share of capital growth.
  • If the wine’s value has remained the same as or decreased from the purchase price, then no further payment is made. The client has already received an 8.9% return on his/her investment.
  • TPBWC either holds or sells this wine to a third party.
  • The process is repeated for subsequent en primeur campaigns.
(Elsewhere in brochure TPBWC gives an example of how the scheme works and undertakes to pay clients 8.9% of their purchase price 'within 30 days of receipt of payment' and a further 8.9% 'within 1 year and 30 days of the purchase date'. Then a further 8.9% a year later and three years after the original purchase date TPBWC buys back the wine at the original purchase price and within 30 days of buy-back a further cheque – 60% of the increase in value.)

From public records The Premier Bordeaux Wine Company has no track record. Although each client is the legal owner of wine purchased, there are elements of their Income Investment Model that might be construed by the FSA as a collective investment and therefore require FSA authorisation, which they do not currently have. If this was an FSA approved scheme it is unlikely that TPBWC would be permitted to make the 8.9% guaranteed claim.

In the FAQ section of the brochure is the question: 'What if TPBWC goes bust?'
Answer: 'The Premier Bordeaux Wine Company is run on solid business principles and is not indebted to banks or third parties. Overheads are kept to a minimum and our focus is always long term. However, even if the worst case scenario materialised and TPBWC did 'go bust' clients funds are secure. All wines are allocated by the case to individual clients at the time of purchase and would be easily distinguished by the official receiver.'

Unfortunately as TPBWC was only founded at the beginning of December 2009 the company has naturally not yet been required to file any accounts. Furthermore experience shows that it can often be far from straightforward identifying an individual's wine when they are kept in a company's umbrella account if the company has gone bankrupt.

For en primeur purchases this becomes a nightmare because it is impossible to identify a client's wine when it is part of a barrel of still maturing wine. In a number of cases when en primeur companies have gone bust, their clients have lost all or most of their money.

My advice
I would not consider buying wine, especially en primeur, from The Premier Bordeaux Wine Company nor signing up to their Income Investment Model.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Assets Vin Rouge Ltd/ Wine Traders International Ltd

I see there was a Mongolian Charity Rally in 2009. Once of the entrants were Gobi Taxis Co who entered a van and succeeded in driving it to Mongolia to raise money for charity. One of their sponsors was Assets Vin Rouge Ltd described on the Gobo Taxi Co site as 'a small but experienced boutique wine investment company and they have kindly decided to sponsor us with a monetary contribution towards our fuel and vehicle costs.'

Assets Vin Rouge Ltd of 1st Floor Midas House, 62 Goldsworth Road, Woking, Surrey GU21 6LQ was founded on 7th July 2006. Its website (www.assetsvinrouge.com) was registered on 26th March 2008. It is 'currently under construction'. It does, however, appear to have an uncertain future as UK Companies House shows that it faces the threat of being struck off, presumably for non-compliance as the accounts are overdue from 31st May 2009 and their latest return should have been filed on 31st August 2009. 


••
Another wine company, Wine Traders International Ltd, may also be in danger of being struck off for non-compliance. Although Companies House has not started the process the company's accounts are overdue since 30th July 2009 and their latest return should have been filed on 7th October 2009. 

There is a posting on Wine Traders International Ltd on the Other news section of www.investdrinks.org 
 

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Persistence is not always a virtue

A message received today about a wine investment company:

'Are  these a reputable lot and what is their performance like in the industry. Their brokers are very persistent.'

Without revealing the name of the company, this was an easy enquiry to answer as the comment that 'their brokers are very persistent' really says it all. I suspect that this enquiry came from someone who had been cold called by one of the staff from this company. Instead of putting the phone down, they decided to listen to the  sales pitch. The result? A spate of phone calls.  

Unfortunately people sometimes feel intimidated into buying from a persistent caller, who stays forever on the phone. Legitimate/ reputable companies don't use this tactic – apart from anything else they know they will alienate their customers.

If you are being troubled by persistent calls, just put the phone down.

My advice
Don't buy from a company that hassles you, whose 'brokers are very persistent'.     


Saturday, 13 February 2010

Please check before you act


Since starting www.investdrinks.org in 2000 I now receive a a steady number of enquiries from people who have either bought from a wine investment company about which they now have some doubts or from people who have been approached – often a cold call – and want to know if this is a reputable company and one who will offer them a fair deal.

I much prefer the second type of enquiry – checking before acting like this example:  

 'I wonder if you can help / advise me?  I recently received a cold call from a company called **** **** Ltd  (name altered) about buying vintage wine. It's something I'm interested in, but I'm concerned about paying large sums of money to people who contact me over the phone. I have done some checking myself but your website came up. I read through it with interest, and would like any thoughts you may have.'

In this instance my advice was not to buy from this company. 

On the other hand these are the sort of messages I dread getting as often by this time it is too late: 

'I've just purchased some fine wines from this organisation and I wanted to make sure I’ve not gone into something I would regret. Can you also advise on where best I can assess fine wines prices to make sure that I’ve not overpaid.'

*

'I normally do a lot of research  before I buy anything but in this case Ive been a complete plank and invested £2500 ( which was left to my children in my mothers will) in a case of wine with a company called Elite Wine Portfolios Ltd  in October 08. No  wine or receipt of ownership has been forthcoming.'
 
Elite Wine Portfolios Ltd was wound up in public interest in the High Court on 28th January 2010 following a petition laid before the court on 7th October 2009. Fortunately in this case the amount of money was relatively small but I doubt whether they will ever see their £2500 again.
 
Sometimes I get contacted by people who have spent well over £100,000 on a company they know nothing about. 
 
Be wise check out the company before buying from them. For some tips see here.     


 

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Templar Vintners and Boss Vintners:

Templar Vintners: two arrests made;
Brent Liberal Democrat councillor Templar’s company secretary
On Thursday 4th February Hertfordshire police arrested Benedict Moruthoane and Andrew Griffiths at the London offices of Templar Vintners Ltd. On Saturday 6th February they were charged at Hatfield Magistrates Court with conspiracy to defraud and money laundering and were remanded in custody. 

Although Templar Vintners Ltd did not start trading until the second half of 2009, its website claims that it is ‘the leading merchants of fine and rare wines’. On 22nd January 2010 the Guernsey Financial Services Commission (GFSC) issued a warning against Templar Vintners over a false claim that it was authorised by GFSC to run a wine fund. (See also here and here.)

Griffiths is the sole director of Templar Vintners Ltd and was appointed on 30th June 2009. James Allie was appointed company secretary on the same day. Allie is the Liberal Democrat councillor for the Alperton ward in Brent.  Allie does not list his appointment as company secretary of Templar Vintners Ltd on the Brent Council register of members’ financial interests.   

I tried to contact Allie for comment but received no direct reply, although Brent Council’s Liberal Democrat office manager did pass on the following response from Allie: “I haven’t been contacted by the police about this matter.” 

I was also in touch with the Brent Council press office, who subsequently contacted Allie. In his response Allie said that he had become company secretary of Templar Vintners Ltd because he was godfather to Moruthoane’s children and had taken on the work without payment. (Work done by councillors without payment does not need to be registered.) Allie said that the company had not started trading when it was raided by the police. 

Allie would appear to be misinformed here. Contacts through investdrinks.org indicate that Templar Vintners started trading in the second half of 2009 – most likely in September or October. It is also clear from Andrew Griffiths comments posted here on 25th January 2010 that Templar Vintners had been trading in 2009.

Boss Vintners’ bogus awards 
Moruthoane is a director of Boss Vintners, based in Johannesburg and founded in 2004. Initially called Voodoo Diamonds, the company name was changed 31st August 2005 with Moruthoane appointed director on 22nd July 2005. Boss Vintners claims to ‘the world’s leading fine wine merchants’. 

On its website Boss Vintners (Company Profile section) claims to have won awards from Decanter magazine, The International  Wine Challenge (Wine magazine) and from the Which? Wine Guide. From Decanter Boss claimed to have won the Bordeaux Specialist UK Wine Merchant of the Year" (Decanter Magazine) 2004/2005 and Fine Wine Specialist UK Wine Merchant of the Year" (Decanter Magazine) 2004/2005. These claims are entirely bogus. Decanter had no retailer awards in 2004 or 2005. The DWWA retailer awards started in 2007 and Boss Vintners has never won any Decanter retailer awards. 

Nor are the International Wine Challenge award claims true as Chris Ashton, event director of the International Wine Challenge says:  “Bordeaux merchant in 2004 was Farr Vintners and the Fine and Rare Merchant didn't exist in 2003! They are not the correct logos any way, they don't have dates on them so they are completely fraudulent as well!!”

Equally the claim to have won the 'Fine Wine Specialist Award" (The Which? Wine Guide) 2004' is also bogus: there was no The Which? Wine Guide 2004 published.  

In June 2009 Moruthoane was charged with conspiracy to defraud and money laundering in relation to International Wine Commodities Ltd, where he was a director. The case is due to be heard at St Albans Crown Court with the trial starting on 7th June. Moruthoane has pleaded not guilty.

  

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Distance selling regulations

Since much of the buying and selling of investment grade wines is done over the phone or by email, most of these transactions within the European Union are covered by the 2000 Distance Selling Regulations

These regulations give the buyer useful protection and can be viewed here: http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2000/20002334.htm In particular they give the buyer the right of cancellation.  Assuming that the buyer has been properly advised as to their rights, the period of cancellation starts on the day the contract is concluded and ends seven working days after the day the goods have been delivered.  This will either be to the buyer or to an appointed third party, for example a bonded warehouse. If the buyer is not advised or is incorrectly advised then the period of cancellation is very considerably extended after the goods have been received.

Although the regulations have been in force since 2000, some companies appear not to be fully cognisant as this example shows:
 
'2.3 The Customer has a right to cancel an order. The Customer can do this by sending to CULT WINES LTD a written notice of cancellation within 7 days of payment being received into CULT WINES LTD's bank account. If the Customer cancels the order, then any money that has been paid to CULT WINES LTD will be returned by CULT WINES LTD.'

*

7.3.2010: I'm pleased to note that Cult Wines Ltd has now amended their terms & conditions to bring this clause into line with the Distance Selling Regulations. 2.3 now reads:


2.3 The Customer has a right to cancel an order. The Customer can do this by sending to CULT WINES LTD a written notice of cancellation during the period of cancellation as set out by the 2000 Distance Selling Regulations. This starts on the day the contract is concluded and ends seven working days after the goods have been delivered to the buyer or to an appointed third party, for example a bonded warehouse. If the Customer cancels the order, then any money that has been paid to CULT WINES LTD will be returned by CULT WINES LTD.

 

Bordeaux Wine Trading Company and International Wine Commodities: June trial

The combined trial of the directors of these two wine investment companies is due to start at St Albans Crown Court on Monday 7th June.

Bordeaux Wine Trading Company Ltd:
Directors Paul Craven, Niklaus Cashman & Oseghale Hayble were arrested in June 2008. They were charged in March 2009 with conspiracy to defraud, and money laundering.  

International Wine Commodities Ltd
Directors Oseghale Hayble and Benedict Moruthoane were arrested in October 2008. They were charged in June 2009 with conspiracy to defraud and money laundering.  

All the defendants have pleaded not guilty.
  
The investigation into the two companies and their directors is being conducted by the Economic Crime Unit of Hertfordshire Police.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Avoid up-front commissions

A number of companies charge up-front commissions – sometimes called brokerage fees. My strong advice is never to deal with a wine investment company that charges an up-front commission. Very often this up-front commission will add 20%-25% to the purchase price. Although the investment company may have to add this commission to their prices in order make money as they are likely to be buying stock from one larger UK brokers, there is no reason why an investor should support a flawed business model. If you cannot offer wines at a reasonable market price then you shouldn't be selling a wine investment package. For the investor the sensible thing is to cut out the unnecessary additional link in the chain and buy from a cheaper source assuming they are well established.

Paying a an upfront commission makes no sense however it is dressed up: companies trumpet that declaring their upfront commission means that their pricing is 'transparent'. What matters is the price the investor pays for the wine – full stop. An upfront commission makes no sense because generally buying the wine, with certain rare exceptions like Pétrus and Le Pin, is the easy bit. It is much harder to sell wine, especially at a good price. Usually companies charging an upfront commission will not levy a commission on sales. Fine but what incentive do they have to sell your wine?

What happens if the company has ceased trading when you want to sell your wine? You will be faced with paying a seller's commission to another company. This means paying twice over (both when you bought and when you sold) and it is worth remembering that wine tends to be a medium to long-term investment.  

Say no to companies charging an upfront commission on investment wines.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Cult Wines Ltd: Tom Gearing's requests

Yesterday in a comment on this blog Tom Gearing made two requests – he says three but it looks like two to me.  

'I just have three requests:

1. Please can you remove/retract your blog.
2. Apologise for the use of confidential material in a public forum.'

The answer to both of these requests is no

Please can you remove/retract your blog.
My posting on this investdrinks blog related to a carelessly worded press release issued by Cult Wines Ltd on 22nd January 2010. If you don't want press comment don't issue press releases – period. If all drinks investment and not just collective wine funds were under the aegis of the FSA, such claims of guaranteed returns would not be allowed as one FSA authorised wine fund manager remarks:

"It is not possible to guarantee returns and therefore no sane fund manager would ever do so.  Most investment managers whether running regulated or unregulated schemes will publish health warnings (e.g. past performance is no guarantee of future performance, shares can go down as well as up etc etc) but will also highlight why they think they will be able to create value for the investor.

The FSA has extensive rules on financial promotions and the degree of information and inducement you can put into your marketing depends on what level of authorization and regulation you have as the investment manager. This also dictates who you can market to."   

Apologise for the use of confidential material in a public forum.
When I posted the initial response from Cult Wines Ltd to my questions following up on the press release (22.1.10) I was totally unaware that there was a confidentiality signature tacked onto the end of the email. Unaware for the very good reason that I cannot imagine why anyone would put such a clause on a response to a known journalist following up a press release issued by the company. It is not as though I had asked for the code to the company safe or the pin number for the company credit card.

A subsequent email stated: 'You do realise that printing this without permission is 100% against the law.'

Frankly I think it is highly unlikely that the law is at all clear cut on this. This might be of interest. I suspect in law much would depend upon the content of the email and whether the recipient had indicated that they would abide by the confidentiality signature.