BH SPECIAL, London: Founded in Birmingham back in 1898, Norton Motorcycles has had a chequered career — it was the first British motorcycle firm that won the first TT race in 1907 and finished first 94 times. Norton’s contribution in the War effort is well documented. It had supplied 10,000 bikes to the military. With incredible success also came a share of croppers — it’s been bankrupt a few times, but the current crisis under British entrepreneur and businessman Stuart Garner has left financial institutions, government funding agencies and thousands of pensioners fuming.
In fact, the situation is so bad and complicated that a UK MP has called for an official investigation into the British government’s funding of Norton Motorcycles besides other charges it faces. An estimated £5m of government grants was handed over to Norton and the charitable British Motorcycle Manufacturing Academy that Stuart Garner also controlled.
Of course, the downfall didn’t happen overnight. The story behind the arrival of administrators at Norton Motorcycles stretches back months, if not years. Garner had rescued the historic bike brand back in 2008, moving it to Leicestershire and building it to a team of 100 people. The various charges virtually open up a Pandora’s Box.
But off lately, the wheeler dealer’s set-up has faced various charges ranging from pilfering parts from customer bikes to unpaid government taxes among others.
The UK Pensions Ombudsman is considering fresh complaints from investors who put their savings into three pensions schemes linked to the Castle Donington motorbike business. Some 228 individuals invested in the schemes, which in turn invested their millions into Norton.
Meanwhile, the UK High Court’s Insolvency and Companies Court in London had heard how HM Revenue & Customs was originally owed around £600,000, half of which had been paid.
The company’s auditors have also raised questions about investments in a US operation and stock quantities, and suggested income and pre-tax profit might have been “overstated”.