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Directors banned over £8.9mn hotel investment scheme

Directors banned over £8.9mn hotel investment scheme
(C. Koch, Pixabay)

Three company directors have been banned after entering into "questionable agreements" that put several million pounds of investor money at risk.

Ronald Albert Popely, 70, Darren James Popely, 52, Stephen William Dickson, 64, were all directors of Oak Forest Partnership, which had bought and refurbished Hever Hotel in Edenbridge, Kent, before offering people the opportunity to invest in hotel rooms.

Over three years, the directors leased 82 rooms to investors for £8.9mn, promising a return of 10 per cent of the purchase price every year for 10 years, as well as to buy back rooms after five years at the original purchase price.

But the partnership went into insolvency in February 2017, with creditors claiming £14.8mn in the liquidation.

The Insolvency Service uncovered that the directors had entered into three “questionable” agreements that had benefited the company and left investors being owed millions.

The agreements included payments of £20.6mn, including £7.1mn paid to connected companies.

Chief investigator at the Insolvency Service, Dave Elliott, said: “While people were thinking they were using their money in genuine investment opportunities the directors were entering into questionable agreements that would benefit themselves ahead of the investors.

“Ronald and Darren Popely, as well as Stephen Dickson, were aware of the implications of what they were doing and their bans should serve as a stark warning that if directors abuse the trust of their investors, we have recourse to remove you from the corporate arena for a significant amount of time.”

Ronald Popely also acted as a director of the company during two years in which he was banned as part of a previous nine-year ban.

Dickson was banned for seven years, and Ronald and Darren Popely both received nine-year bans. 

The secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy accepted disqualification undertakings from all three directors, which prevents them from directly, or indirectly, becoming involved in the promotion, formation or management of a company, without the permission of the court.

Liquidators are still establishing whether funds, or recovery of funds, is a viable option.

sally.hickey@ft.com