A collapsed broadcaster who worked on the Euro 2020 football tournament and Glastonbury tricked the banks into loaning him Â£ 280million for assets that did not exist, administrators have estimated.
Arena Television, which supplied outdoor broadcast trucks to customers including the BBC, ITV and Sky, closed in November after a serial number provided for equipment was questioned and turned out to be false.
Company bosses Richard Yeowart and Robert Hopkinson disappeared soon after and have yet to be located.
The extent of the alleged fraud has now been revealed in a new report from the directors of Kroll who have taken control of Arena and are seeking to recover funds for creditors.
They said Arena had borrowed around Â£ 282million from 55 lenders, supposedly to purchase equipment.
However, a review of the kit owned by the company found that it “does not own the vast majority of the allegedly acquired assets.”
Trustees said the only funds they had located were Â£ 2,761 in petty cash at the Arena offices and that no ‘significant’ amount was to be recovered from its bank accounts.
Company-owned broadcast trucks, helicopters, airplanes, photographic equipment, vehicles, furniture and office equipment are now being sold to raise funds.
Lenders to which Arena owes money include Virgin Money UK, formerly known as CYBG, as well as NatWest, Close Brothers and Shawbrook.
The directors said they are also investigating the reasons why the company was shut down so abruptly, the disappearance of the directors, the discovery of large debts that were not disclosed in the accounts and the alleged “misinformation” provided. to lenders and other parties.
Arena was founded by Mr. Yeowart in 1988 to provide outdoor broadcast trucks and helicopters to cover sporting events.
But on November 10, company employees, some of whom were on their way to broadcasting jobs, were abruptly informed that the company had ceased operations and that they had to return the equipment to Redhill headquarters. , in Surrey.
The announcement came after an investigator working for one of Arena’s lenders attempted to verify the serial number of a piece of equipment the company claimed to own, but was told it did not. did not exist.
âThe directors appear to have made the decision to go out of business shortly thereafter, which resulted in the aforementioned email being sent,â the directors said.
Neither Mr. Yeowart nor Mr. Hopkinson have been located since then.
The company secured Â£ 800,000 in taxpayer loans during the coronavirus crisis and staff who have been put on leave have reportedly been asked to come to work despite a breach of the rules.