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Creditors’ anger at AV company collapse with £64k of debt presented as rebrand

Claims misleading information dressed company failure as positive news

Pictured: iCO Event Services announced its rebrand as AYRE – The Live Comms Company in May

Leeds-based AV and event production company iCO Event Services has been wound up with debts of more than £64,000. This came just six weeks after the company issued a press release announcing “an exciting re-brand for iCO Event Services.”

The release issued in May announced: “A new brand and company name and introducing a new business development manager to grow the new brand. As of Tues 8 May, iCO Event Services will be known as AYRE – The Live Comms Company”.

The release failed to mention the plans to close iCO Event Services, owing the taxman nearly £30,000 and nearly £24,000 to trade creditors. One of these, Nick Bradshaw of Oakbase, who was owed £2,000, said: “ICO Events have gone into liquidation and are pretending to have undertaken a rebrand. They have left their suppliers without any chance of being repaid and they think that if they front it out they will be able to phoenix from the ashes, walk away from their debts and hope that their clients will not find out.”

But managing director Christopher Ayre denies intentionally issuing misleading information. He said: “That release should never have been sent out. I told him to withdraw it. The person who sent it out is no longer with the company. At the time we were about to rebrand but then after speaking to the insolvency practitioner it became clear the business was not viable so we decided to wind it up”. 

The company was founded in 2014 and end of year accounts since then showed a consistent balance sheet deficit.

While there is nothing illegal in winding up a company and starting a new one, creditors are angry that a liquidation was misrepresented as a rebrand and that the move was deliberately undertaken to mislead. In the earlier release, managing director Chris Ayre said: “It’s a great time to be in the events industry, as the UK is attracting more and more conference and event projects, we have never been so well placed. AYRE comes with a more progressive creative approach to our client’s projects, backed up with a large stock of advanced technical equipment; everything is in one place.”

Creditors might question Ayre’s remarks about a good time to be in the events industry and the origin of the “large stock of advanced technical equipment”, mentioned above.

  • Philip Haines of Hainesnet Ltd 17/07/2018

    There is also a lesson to be learned by clients - although the pain is primarily felt by suppliers (who include freelancers).

    Clients who often jump to the cheapest price should be taking more time to check the financial probity of their (often new) suppliers. In this case a company who only started in 2014.

    As a primarily B2B industry there will never be financial protection for clients so it's important that august organs such as yours call out this reprehensible behaviour - whilst ceteris paribus is all too true, it is often unlikely that front line suppliers carry the can.

    There is no need to be anonymous - as an industry we need to call out these companies.

  • Martin Ellis 17/07/2018

    It would be interesting to find out some in-depth detail on this. What happened to the original company's assets? Were they sold to the new company by the liquidator? How were they valued and were they offered elsewhere to gain a fair market valuation? Has a report on the directors' conduct been published? Plus many more (probably unanswered) questions.
    Insolvencies are a sad fact of business life. However, companies instantly phoenixing into "version 2" often set alarm bells ringing, and with good reason. Unfortunately, behaviour such as that which is alluded to in this instance, is all too common.

  • Anonymous user 17/07/2018

    It's time people are stopped from doing this. The original idea behind phoenixing was to safeguard the jobs of the exployees. However, the next iteration is usually destined to fail, as the business model is often wrong and exacerbated by poor and often greedy management.

    We have seen this time and time again. And the recurring theme is that the suppliers and freelance crew are the ones who suffer.

    In my experience the directors have always decided to go into liquidation long before they announce it, and they do their utmost to keep it from their creditors until it's too late. It may not be illegal, but it's certainly immoral.

    "I told him to withdraw it," is of little succour to the suppliers and crew who have been duped into continuing to work for Ayre. Not to mention the taxman's loss, which we all have to cover through our own taxes.

    For whatever reason, our industry relies enormously on trust and goodwill, and it is companies like this that take advantage of it. The directors in these cases always blame somebody else, and never say sorry.

    Well done to Meetpie for reporting a relevant and important story in an unbiased way.

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