Man barred from being a director over fake Lee Westwood endorsement

Martyn Clapham
By Martyn Clapham September 3, 2015 14:05

A man who used images of Lee Westwood without his consent to convince 11 people to invest more than £25,000 each into a golf course, and then spent the money on gambling, has been barred from being a director of a company for 13 years.

The Insolvency Service has barred Christopher Smullen, 44, from promoting, managing or being a director of a limited company for that time while Sean Keating, 54, who was the sole signatory to the firm’s bank account, has been barred for six years.

The duo were directors of Worldwide Sports Investments (WSI) which encouraged people to invest in a Portuguese golf course and hotel. Eleven investors gave about £25,000 each to the company, but it had no agreement in place with the golf club and the money was predominantly used for gambling.

In 2011, one of the leading names in golf, Andrew ‘Chubby’ Chandler, who runs the ISM agency, which looks after Lee Westwood among other leading golfers, revealed that WSI has been using Westwood’s image in its promotional literature without their permission.

Lee Westwood

Lee Westwood

‘Lee’s image should not have been used in the recent advertising and must not in any way be construed as an endorsement by Lee and / or ISM and / or Andrew Chandler of the development or of Westwood 100 Club or WSI. Neither Lee nor ISM nor Mr Chandler take any responsibility in relation to any of them and you are strongly urged to make your own enquiries,’ wrote Mr Chandler.

Within a few months the Insolvency Service was carrying out an investigation into the two directors.

“Mr Smullen misled individuals into making payments to WSI, purportedly in respect of investment in a hotel and golf course. Furthermore, he caused the company to dissipate the funds, which meant no investor received any benefit,” it found.

“WSI used advertising and promotion literature purporting that the project was endorsed by a prominent professional golfer which was untrue.

“WSI advertised that the investments were totally secure when in fact there was no security held by WSI.

“WSI indicated to potential investors that the investment opportunity was almost fully subscribed, when in fact only 11 of the 100 shares were apparently applied for.

“There is no evidence that any investment was made on their behalf by WSI. There is no evidence to suggest that WSI had any agreement in place with the hotel and golf course to which its marketing literature referred.

“Bank statement analysis indicates that Mr Smullen caused investment monies to be used for his own personal expenses. Mr Smullen caused investment monies totalling £194,914 to be used for gambling.”

The company was wound-up in 2013, owing creditors and shareholders at least £278,201, following a petition by an investor owed £25,195.

Commenting on the disqualification, official receiver Ken Beasley said: “Mr Smullen caused significant loss to people by causing Worldwide Sports to induce them to invest in a scheme which was not legitimate. It used images without consent; made claims as to assets held and the security of the investments which were not founded; and used the funds raised not for investments, but seemingly for his personal expenditure. In doing so, his conduct fell far below that expected of directors of a limited company.

“In failing to pay proper regard to the company’s affairs, Mr Keating, as a formally appointed director and the sole signatory to the bank account, failed to discharge his responsibilities to the company and its creditors.

“The Insolvency Service has strong enforcement powers and we will not hesitate to use them to remove dishonest or reckless directors from the business environment as shown in this case.”

 

Martyn Clapham
By Martyn Clapham September 3, 2015 14:05
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