A key unit of collapsed UK caravan giant RoyaleLife was placed into administration this week, as a fight heats up among debtors owed hundreds of millions of pounds.
(Bloomberg) — A key unit of collapsed UK caravan giant RoyaleLife was placed into administration this week, as a fight heats up among debtors owed hundreds of millions of pounds.
Time GB Group Limited is one of around 200 companies that make up RoyaleLife, a group that was owned and founded by self-proclaimed billionaire Robert Bull, but has now mostly collapsed into insolvency. The firm acted as a treasury company for RoyaleLife, undertaking money transfers across the group, and is the closest thing the caravan giant had to a corporate center.
The administration application for Time GB is an abrupt u-turn considering that Bull told the London High Court as recently as June that it was solvent with excess assets of more than £60 million ($73.4 million.) The company now has net liabilities of nearly £85 million, Bull told the court through a statement last month, and it’s facing down debts of at least £500 million from more than 10 creditors.
Those creditors are just a fraction of the vast array of financial backers that helped fuel RoyaleLife’s rapid rise into a sprawling holding company with a portfolio of 96 static caravan parks. Many of its units have now been shuttered by lenders including Intermediate Capital Group Plc, Avenue Capital and Sun Communities Inc., setting up a rush to recover debts.
It isn’t clear exactly how much is owed to RoyaleLife’s creditors, but a proposed whole group refinancing mentioned in court documents earlier this year was for around £1.5 billion. A spokesperson for Bull declined to comment on a list of questions sent by Bloomberg.
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Court filings obtained by Bloomberg News show that Time GB has some £200 million worth of assets, mostly made up of money owed from other entities in Bull’s sprawling empire. A large number of those companies have been placed into separate administrations by lenders with security over particular units.
The firm’s fixed assets total just £230,153 and include “cherished number plates” and shares in four subsidiaries, Bull said in the court filing. The license plates include novelty registrations playing on the word “TOY,” according to two people familiar with the matter, while two of those subsidiaries are dormant and another has been dissolved, the filings show.
Also included in evidence was a draft set of accounts for Time GB in which an auditor had refused to sign off on the stated numbers, the court heard. Judge Sebastian Prentis described Bull’s detailing of the company’s assets as “scant.”
Bull had applied to the court for administrators to be appointed to Time GB from FRP Advisory Limited, a firm that has given ad-hoc restructuring advice to RoyaleLife for more than a year. In a hearing on Monday, however, Prentis appointed administrators from ReSolve instead to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.
“Set against the dramatic collapse of this company and the group I remain concerned,” the judge said of Bull’s eagerness to appoint FRP rather than any other administrator. “The correct choice is to appoint ReSolve.”
ICG is claiming £500 million in the proceedings against RoyaleLife, while Sun Communities is owed more than £300 million. Both have hired insolvency practitioners to help run and recover value from the parts of the business they were lenders to.
James Cowper Kreston, the accountancy firm working for ICG, has put a portfolio of parks on the market through Christies & Co, while administrators at Alvarez & Marsal have hired Avison Young to carry out a sale of assets.
Park Homes Investments Limited, a vehicle part owned by the family office of Rod Aldridge, the founder of FTSE 100 outsourcing firm Capita Plc, is claiming around £58 million. The debt owed to that entity is accruing at £45,000 a day, Park Homes’s barrister told the court.
Aldridge directed queries about the investment to Matthew Insley, who runs his family office Aldridge Wealth Limited. Emails and LinkedIn messages to Insley went unanswered.
Bull is also facing a personal bankruptcy petition from Hampshire, England-based lender Asset Advantage, according to the filings obtained by Bloomberg News. When contacted for comment by Bloomberg News, a woman who answered the phone at Asset Advantage said it was company policy not to talk to reporters.
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