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14/02/2020

Norton boss Stuart Garner failed to appear at a hearing called by the Pensions Ombudsman Anthony Arter in London on 13 February. Garner had been invited to attend to give evidence and had apparently confirmed last week he would attend but did not show and no explanation was given.

The hearing went ahead without Garner, whose company went into administration on 30 January, and the Ombudsman began by summarising his powers and duties under various Acts/regulations, including the power under Section 33 of the Pensions Act 1995 to find trustees personally liable if they breach their obligation or fail to exercise skill in the performance of investment functions.

Garner was sole trustee of the Dominator 2012 Pension Scheme; the Donington MC Pension Scheme; and the Commando 2012 Pension Scheme and the complaints concerned his failure to return monies to stakeholders and failing to respond to correspondence.

About 25 members of the public had registered to attend the hearing, watching from the spectators’ gallery, and witnesses gave evidence under oath, among them Margaret Liddell of LD Administration Ltd, the pension schemes administrators from 2014 to 2018.

Two complainants also gave evidence about their experiences. Both had been hit with hefty tax demands and neither had been able to withdraw money. LD said it could not get money from Garner who gave various excuses, including saying it was all LD’s fault.

A representative of BDN, Simon Goodley of the Guardian and Joel Hills of ITV News, who have been collaborating on an investigation into activities at Norton, were among the press in attendance.

Andy Calton of MCN was also there.

The Ombudsman will make his preliminary decision in about three months.

CONCRETE BLOCKS

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that production has stopped at the Norton Motorcycles factory – but that there have not been any redundancies as yet.

Concrete blocks are reported to have been placed at the entrances to bike headquarters in Castle Donington, while administrators continue to look for a potential buyer.

There were believed to be around 70 people working at the business at the time.

Garner is also understood to have been working with the administrators within the business until at least a few days ago.

It is understood that “four or five Aston Martins and a couple of Range Rovers” used by Garner were taken away as part of the assets of the business.

The neighbouring Priest House Hotel, also owned by Garner and also in administration, continues to be run by a chain called Legacy Hotels, whilst a buyer for that is sought.

Administrators BDO were brought in by Norton’s bank Metro Bank three weeks after the bike firm was in the High Court’s Insolvency and Companies Court facing a winding up order over £300,000 of unpaid taxes to HMRC.

In a new statement Lee Causer, BDO business restructuring partner, said: “As joint administrators, we are taking all necessary steps to ensure that customers, staff and suppliers are supported through the administration process, as we seek the sale of the business and assets.

“We have had a significant volume of interest and are hopeful that a sale of Norton Motorcycles (UK) Ltd can be secured.”