High Street Group CEO is ex bankrupt, legal threats against Bond Review continue

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Research by an anonymous Bond Review reader has brought to light the past of High Street Group owner Gary Forrest.

In October 2009 Gary Forrest was made bankrupt in Newcastle County Court, following a petition filed in December 2008.

Exactly what led to Forrest’s bankruptcy is not stated in the Gazette (and my attempts to obtain further details from the county court have been unsuccessful), but it’s probably important to note that this was a personal bankruptcy rather than one of his companies.

From 2003 to 2007 Forrest was a director of a sub prime loans business, High Street Home Loans. The business was sold to American behemoth GMAC-RFC.

You’d think that after selling a sub prime loans business in 2007, the moment before the credit crunch hit, Forrest would have been sitting pretty. That’s a stroke of luck/genius which most people would live and dine out on for the rest of their lives. But his bankruptcy in 2009 suggests that wasn’t the case.

Undischarged bankrupts are not allowed to be company directors. Nonetheless, in 2010, Forrest was named in The Mirror as the “Chairman” of a company called Credit Issues. The Mirror noted that Forrest was not listed as a director but that his wife Hazel was the biggest shareholder.

Credit Issues took large upfront fees from desperate borrowers who were trying to write off their debt. According to the Mirror article, this didn’t go well.

We warned four months ago that Credit Issues was on thin ice.

A judge had closed the main loophole it used to write off debts.

But in an email sent to its sales agents – in “error” we were later told – it tried to portray this disastrous court ruling as a win and extract another £110 from clients.

Borrowers had already paid up to £450 each for Credit Issues to take on their cases.

And what did customers get? According to several agents we’ve spoken to, very little.

A winding up petition was launched against Credit Issues in 2010. It was finally dissolved in 2014.

Back to High Street Group. According to an HSG press release dated 2012, it was originally launched in 2008 as a spin-off from High Street Home Loans. Of perhaps more relevance is that High Street Commercial Finance Limited, the company that borrowed money from investors in HSG bonds, was incorporated in 2011.

Once Forrest’s bankruptcy was discharged, he was free to act as a company director again, and he was duly appointed as director of High Street Commercial Finance in May 2012.

So as a rough timeline:

2003-2007: Gary Forrest runs a successful sub-prime loans business (successful enough to be bought out by one of the American giants) before cashing in at the perfect moment, just before the credit crunch.

2008-2010: Gary Forrest’s wilderness years, comprising bankruptcy and a firm “chaired” by Forrest which took upfront fees from desperate indebtees, with a dubious track record of successfully getting their debts written off.

2011/12 onwards: The launch of High Street Group, which in its own words was “originally launched to provide Debt Management advice and Financial Mis-selling Claims to the Consumer”, although with a sideline in commercial property finance: “High Street Boutique Finance provides unique funding to the Buy to Let Investor, Property Developer and SME market place.”

That commercial finance side appears to have morphed into an unregulated property investment scheme issuing bonds to investors. The debt management and claims management side appears to have died away as the unregulated investment scheme grew in size; there is no mention of it on the HSG website.

To summarise the summary, Gary Forrest has gone from being an issuer of sub-prime loans in 2003-2007 to a borrower of sub-prime loans in 2018-2020 to finance his property scheme. Loans which start at at a rate of 12% per year and rise to 22% per year in year 7 and have to be advertised to the public by unregulated introducers cannot be described as anything but sub prime.

High Street hagiography

Whether HSG investors were made aware of Forrest’s 2009 bankruptcy is unclear. There is no mention of it in Forrest’s LinkedIn profile. Nor is it mentioned in a 2019 puff piece by the Northern Echo – though you’d think it would be worth a mention in Forrest’s rags-to-riches story.

He’s 50, left school at 16 – “GCSEs? Two, I think” – began working life on a job creation scheme helping lay footpaths at Jubilee Park in Spennymoor.

One highlight we did learn from the Echo’s piece is Forrest’s love of sports cars.

“They gave me a psychometric test and it literally went off the paper. They asked if I had the ambition to own a Porsche and I said that if I had a Porsche I’d want a Ferrari and if I had a Ferrari I’d want a Lamborghini.”

Other interesting points from the Northern Echo’s hagiography include:

  • From age 18 until the launch of High Street Home Loans in 2003, Forrest was a financial adviser / salesman, at first for Allied Dunbar (known affectionately in the industry as Allied Crowbar for its sales practices) and then independent
  • High Street Group was (in January 2019) “contemplating floating on the Stock Exchange” – almost two years on, there is no sign of any prospectuses, investment banks, or indeed up-to-date annual accounts – the bare minimum for a company to operate legally, let alone list on the LSE
  • Forrest juggles High Street Group with his family and running a non-league football club – leading the Northern Echo to describe him gushingly as “to work-life balance what Blondini was to the tightrope”
  • Forrest has a “brain disorder which means he’s unable to see pictures in his mind” and as a consequence cannot read books (other than biographies)

Legal campaign continues

High Street Group’s campaign of legal threats against this blog started in October 2019, when their lawyers sent me a letter taking issue with my 2018 review of their bonds and a follow up news article on the (overdue) release of their 2017 accounts.

High Street Group claimed via their lawyers that I’d “sought to question our client’s conduct in relation to financial investments” and “suggested that our client is not truthful and their actions are not be trusted”. Neither of these accusations appeared anywhere in either of my articles.

High Street Group did not send the letter to me but to WordPress, and demanded they remove not just the articles about themselves but Bond Review in its entirety. WordPress declined. Despite me going public with the legal threats and inviting HSG to put up or shut up, I heard nothing further for months.

In September 2020 I then received another letter on HSG’s behalf from an entirely different set of lawyers. This letter was, frankly, a soggy mess. It conflated what I’d said in my own article with third-party comments underneath the article, to the extent it was impossible to tell whose words they were complaining about at any particular point.

It also told total untruths, such as claiming that HSG had “filed all accounts in accordance with relevant legislation” – which as anyone can see by glancing at Companies House is completely false. (High Street Commercial Finance Limited and High Street Grp Limited remain a year and two months overdue with their 2018 accounts. On New Year’s Day, if nothing changes, they will achieve the rare feat of being overdue with two sets of annual accounts – 2018 and 2019. They would already have achieved it if Covid hadn’t resulted in all companies getting an extra three months.)

I pointed out to them that as they’d conflated my own comments with someone else’s, I wasn’t able to take any action in regard to either, and that apart from a minor and innocuous error, everything in my articles was backed up by evidence. I heard nothing more for two months.

In November I received a letter from Gary Forrest himself decrying my “constant inaccuracy” and inviting me to meet him and HSG management at the head office in Newcastle. I declined, and invited him again to point out any inaccuracies. He failed to point out any – hardly a surprise as if there had been any, HSG would have detailed them when they started their legal campaign a year ago.

This Sunday Forrest sent another email threatening me with the receipt of yet another pre-action letter on Monday 23rd. (Yes, Sunday – and this is a man who supposedly has the work-life balance of Blondini.) At time of writing no such letter has been received. Things got really bizarre when Forrest started threatening to expose me as being somebody I’m not.

We now have clear evidence that [XX] is Brev. The lawyers WILL be confirming this in writing and that they are confident in taking a case to court. You know as well as I do that a law firm will not make such a statement if the evidence did not exist.

The content of the letters will also include a pre prepared written statement from [XX] that needs to be sworn under oath that they are not Brev. In the event that this is not signed and sworn we will accept this as our confirmation that [XX] is Brev and immediately file the court papers.

In the event that [XX] does sign the statement under oath we will still issue the legal proceedings and add perjury to the claim.

Needless to say, XX (name removed to protect the innocent) isn’t me. But I would say that, wouldn’t I. Anyway, whether I’m XX or not, apparently I have to sign a statement to say I’m not XX, because otherwise HSG will sue me. If I do sign to say (truthfully) I am not [XX], HSG will double-sue me by adding a private criminal prosecution for perjury to the civil case.

The only way out of this weird and wonderful legal web that HSG has woven around me like a spider on cannabis would seem to be to invite HSG to see me in court again. Watch this space…

85 thoughts on “High Street Group CEO is ex bankrupt, legal threats against Bond Review continue

  1. Perhaps the sale to GMAC was very bad timing rather than ‘genius’. I’d suggest an earn out was in place which due to the failure of GMAC never materialised.

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  2. Could David Leighton who is in the Platinum team be the very same David Leighton that was a Content & Research Executive at The High Street Group?

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  3. A personal name has been removed from this thread following a request via email.

    I won’t be deleting any references to company directors or shareholders (as recorded on Companies House) but it’s reasonable for mere employees to not want to be associated in public with the actions of their previous employers.

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  4. Interesting that Assetz capital is mentioned, I’ve invested in a few loans from the High Street group listed on Assetz Capital.

    I think the significant difference with these loans and the HSG loan notes in terms of risk, is that the Assetz loans are secured with first charge against the asset, whereas the HSG loan notes are only secured with a debenture and corporate guarantee. It’s probably worth mentioning that the higher level of security comes at a cost, with the return on the various Assetz loans between 6 and 8%.

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  5. My concern with Assetz is the level of due diligence. Should they be lending to the business of an ex bankrupt? Are P2P investors aware of this when they invest? I am not sure I would want that risk. That said, as highlighted above they do have a genuine charge on property.

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  6. So Platinum Assets and Development have changed their website to remove the HSG connections from their team page. A real shame as there were a few of them.

    Thankfully the ex MD of High Street Commercial Finance, Tony Hughes, is still smiling at us here: https://platinumassets.co.uk/platinum-assets-developments-covid-19-counter-measures/

    A comforting smile in these difficult times. The trusting look of an IFA who should know better maybe?

    Why not invest in a business whose filed accounts show enough share capital to buy a new pair of trainers? They have £13 quid in the bank. Maybe they will splash out on a 5 Guys burger to share.

    I mean really? To spout that rubbish about the projects they are looking at? It’s like buying a ticket to the races and pretending to be a racehorse owner.

    This is impressive stuff after all, “ The key stakeholders of Platinum Assets and Developments (PAD) bring extensive expertise and experience within the loan note and property development market. Chairman, Tony Hughes has operated at board level for the past 30 years with institutional funds such as Head of Sales with Pearl Assurance plc who at that time managed assets in excess of £150 billion. More recently he has been Group Sales Director building corporate and client finance structure from zero to a recently over £1 billion valued business in a little over 7 years.”

    Group Sales Director you say? At a business that went from zero to being valued at over £1 billion. That all sounds very familiar.

    Form an orderly queue to part with your money folks. 🙂

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  7. Hmm guys,

    We are all wading in about an article that has be written by someone who is anonymous.

    I’m not saying HSG are good. I really don’t care if they are. I haven’t invested in them, but we are making assumptions about them based on an article written by someone we know nothing about.

    Someone with 187 Twitter followers

    For all we know, Brev could work for HSG, on the assumption he has so much info on them.

    See, assumptions are not good, base these comments on facts for the sake of people who actually care and want to know the facts, instead of scaremongering

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  8. For all we know, Brev could work for HSG, on the assumption he has so much info on them.

    All the info I’ve published on HSG is in the public domain and can be verified by anyone with access to a computer. Except for HSG’s own legal threats against me, of course – but if you think that I’ve made them up, you’re welcome to verifiy it with a quick email to HSG. They can hardly deny their own legal correspondence.

    See, assumptions are not good, base these comments on facts for the sake of people who actually care and want to know the facts, instead of scaremongering

    There are no assumptions in my articles. Feel free to point out anything that isn’t a fact.

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  9. I love this from Tony Hughes at Platinum, “ Those investing in these opportunities can benefit from fixed rate returns, which offer at least some certainty in these very uncertain times.”

    Brilliant. Sign me up.

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  10. Brev, in Answer to your question to Jon:

    “You’d think that after selling a sub prime loans business in 2007, the moment before the credit crunch hit, Forrest would have been sitting pretty.”

    The above is not fact, its an opinion and like Jon pointed out, is an “Assumption”.

    Your articles are littered with assumptions that are normally have negative connotations.

    Never the less HSG are useless.

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  11. Neither the timing of the credit crunch nor the fact that Forrest sold his sub prime loans business just before it are assumptions.

    I pointed out that it would have been a natural assumption that Forrest would have been in a good position after selling up before the credit crunch hit, but in the same breath I pointed out that this assumption would have been wrong, as per his 2009 bankruptcy.

    7 out of 10 for effort. Feel free to point out any unjustified assumptions in my articles.

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  12. This will make you laugh.
    The trading address on that website is:
    TRIUMPH TOWERS LTD
    Becket House
    36 Old Jewry Street
    London, UK, EC2R 8DD

    There is no “Old Jewry Street” in the City, its just Old Jewry.

    And Beckett House offers serviced offices………

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  13. I never said “unjustified” assumptions, I said “Assumptions”. Changing the goalposts again.

    My argument is state facts, don’t leave assumptions in the article that have negative connotations that scare people.

    4/10 for effort though.

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  14. Good lord,how anyone even remotely “sophisticated” could even possibly fall for that ridiculously cheap promotional video on the triumph towers site above is beyond me.

    He (forrest) clearly has not got the first idea about dressing appropriately, with cheap suits and clothes galore on show…… i for one, and many others would not fall for such a badly produced promo.

    The whole pack of cards is going to come a tumbling down in………………….

    well, soon

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  15. The video is hilarious.

    What makes me laugh is the way they value the business as the sum of any future turnover.

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  16. Ref Forrests suits..probably a mate of effing Green…bought at Topman ,got a discount , on the rags , overage stock shop soiled .

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  17. Speaking as someone who has had repeated legal threats from HSG for a year and a half, which have gone precisely nowhere, I rather doubt you are going to be sued for what you have published. But you should of course take your own legal advice.

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  18. Thomas Williams Wife’s Instagram account is absolutely vile to look at! That’s where the majority of money looks to have gone.

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  19. I find it absolutely despicable that the High Street Group can force its creditors to hide in fear of legal threat. I suspect the reason they chose to raise money from retail investors is for this simple reason – that none individually would be powerful enough to hold them to account for their misappropriation of funds and contractual defaults.

    Clearly, a challenge from a united entity with financial means such as Strategic Advantage will win in a court of law, as has been evidenced.

    A very unfair, unjust and unethical series of events has been allowed to happen within one of the most regulated jurisdictions of the world.

    I recommend for creditors to reach out to the regulator, the FCA, and appeal for them to take the necessary steps. This legal belittlement should also be highlighted, unethical behaviour like this chills me to the bone.

    What we can take comfort in, is the richness of the data trail left behind (millions of GBP paid out to introducers such as Thomas Williams and his wife Chavely Williams). The payments that have been made (and emails exchanged) are crystallised in the audit trail and will be visible for the regulator to see once they finally take the appropriate action. Their instagram accounts (chavelywilliams, twcw.2, twcw1) have filmed their blasé, untasteful and excessive consumption and will hopefully allow justice to be delivered in an efficient and effective manner once the appropriate forces are in motion.

    I fail to see how the situation can resolve itself. Gary Forrest chose to borrow at rates that were not sustainable, primarily due to the extortionate commission levels charged by the unregulated broking firms that lied to (and misclassified) retail investors they reached through cold calls and un-compliant financial promotion campaigns. The end is in sight, and Gary Forrest will soon, no doubt, be bankrupt again. I would recommend that creditors act early before more money is wasted by HSG on excessive legal fees, bankruptcy proceedings, and before the introducers have had time to redistribute the funds that were never theirs to spend in the first place.

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  20. Hi Manolis,

    I did write to the FCA , but no actions were taken, the only way forward is to re set up the investor alliance , ignore all HSG menace until a court date is set

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  21. I’ve read all comments here. I must say i invested with High Street Group for many years and they paid me everytime. Very good service. I say also Covid was a very big challenge for every company so i’m not surprise abiut what happened. Probably they need time to recover and sell some property and get back in business as usual i suppose…

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  22. Invested with High Street Group many times. Very good people. Good company no problems hi from Tenerife thank you

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  23. I can understand that a threat from lawyers can be very intimidating. I think that was probably the aim of the letter and they will be delighted that you have closed the page and that a creditors group has not continued to take action.
    However, I am unsure what action they could take. In my opinion they could only look to accuse you of defamation against GF or HSG. However, to do this they would need to demonstrate that what you write is not based in truth or honest opinion. Please see https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2013/26
    I think you need to get some more formal advice and continue with the group. Be honest, be factual and you have nothing to fear.
    Given that FRP Advisory are the administrators for High Street Rooftop Holdings Ltd, they could be a good place to start. Paul Allen and Ben Woolrych are named as the individuals appointed at FRP.
    Alternatively, use a ‘no win no fee’ debt collection agency.
    The other alternative would be to issue a Winding Up Petition against the entity that owes you the money. This would allow you to trigger formal recovery actions such as liquidation. See https://www.thegazette.co.uk/all-notices/content/101087
    My advice would be to be brave. Stand your ground as a group or as individuals. Take action. It is your money. You have invested with certain promises. They should be adhered to.

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  24. In terms of the Newcastle upon Tyne Developments:

    Hadrians Tower – Apartments complete but roof top bar on hold.
    Strawberry Place – Nothing happening a start is someway off yet.
    Brett Wharf – some demolition occurred but nothing else.
    Pottery Lane – nothing happening.

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  25. Investor – the lesson here isn’t to avoid bonds, it’s to avoid unregulated investments.

    If you think HSG will go bust then an administrator will be appointed and they will pay out whatever is left in the bank (after their own large fees) to creditors who are ranked in order of priority. From past experience that ends to be very little.

    Or if you think they have lots of money and simply aren’t paying you then you could try legal action but I can’t advise you on that or the chances of success, you would have to seek legal advice.

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  26. Be very suspicious of anyone like “Mr Brambles” asking you to supply documents via encrypted email addresses. VERY,VERY SUSPICIOUS.

    You have no idea who this “Mr Brambles” is in real life.

    Deal with them at your peril.

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  27. Comments on this article have been suspended. Further comments may be submitted via the “Contact” link at the top.

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