After Richard Yeowart (owner) and Robert Hopkinson (co-director), of Arena Television, had failed to respond to a High Court judgment ordering the repayment of £100 million, they were left bankrupt. But there is a backstory here!
The two directors were first asked to pay £250 million as repayment in the £280 million defrauding scam. The unlocatable directors never responded so insolvency practitioners from Kroll took it further, with a default judgment from the High Court being ordered. The amount that was agreed upon here, by the judge, was the repayment of £100 million-plus £500,000 of costs. After the duo did not respond to the statutory demand, bankruptcy was left upon them.
Touching on Arena TV and its history…
The broadcaster was incorporated in 1988, focusing on sports and events such as the Glastonbury Festival (BBC) and the European football championship (ITV Sport).
In November 2021, Yeowart ordered the company to cease trading, following a concern that was raised that an asset linked to a loan may not exist.
Administrators who underwent the process for the firm realised that the company had borrowed against equipment that actually did not exist or had already been used to secure a loan from another lender – no wonder Yeowart was shaken by the concern raised!
Addressing the scam!
Straight to the chase – the company was suspected of defrauding lenders of about £280 million. This is one of the largest ever asset-based lending frauds in the UK, with 55 lenders thought to be owed – and likely to never see their money back.
According to insolvency practitioners, 46 lenders which are owed a total amount of £182 million, ‘’do not have recourse to any assets’’ underlying their lending, with a shortfall of ‘’several thousand assets’’.
It should be noted that a worldwide freezing injunction was obtained on the directors last November as well as on various third parties which had received money from either Arena or its directors.
The Serious Fraud Office began a criminal investigation into the scandal just earlier this year. The directors are yet to be found. Court filings did however suggest some aspects of how the fraud was committed. Apparently, Yeowart set up Sports Online Limited, registered in Hong Kong. He would then sell equipment from Arena or Sports Online to an intermediary company which would sell it to an asset-based lender. The equipment (not always existent), was then subject to a hire purchase agreement between Arena and the lender. To show that Arena had received the equipment, false serial numbers and certificates were sent to the lender