Financier 'used investors' money to fund lifestyle'

A financier behind an investment scheme bearing striking similarities to the one run by the disgraced businessman Gavin Woodhouse used investors’ money to fund a lifestyle that included a private jet, a fleet of yachts and luxury motor vehicles, the high court heard on Tuesday.

Sean Murray, the 53-year-old founder of the Carlauren Group, raised more than £75m from private investors who were offered the chance to make 125% profit over 10 years by buying rooms in care homes and hotels.

He is alleged to have left his investors with a shortfall of “up to £50m as a result of the misuse of investors’ money” that included the purchase of “a private jet, three private yachts, at least four luxury motor vehicles (a Rolls-Royce, a Bentley, a Ferrari and a Lamborghini) and two luxury houses”.

The houses were bought for about £2.5m and £3.15m and “are occupied by Mr Murray and his ex-wife respectively”, court filings alleged.

The claims were made as the court heard a joint application to take Murray’s Carlauren Group into administration by the insolvency firms Quantuma and Duff & Phelps.

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Duff & Phelps is the administrator to much of the former Northern Powerhouse Developments empire once run by Woodhouse, whose business collapsed after publication in June of a Guardian/ITV News undercover investigation.

Woodhouse also offered private investors a 125% profit for investing in care homes and hotel rooms and raised more than £80m from private investors. In the fallout from his firm’s collapse, a judge said Woodhouse’s business model appeared to be “thoroughly dishonest”.

Submissions to support the application to take Carlauren into administration stated: “[Duff & Phelps’ Philip] Duffy has very considerable and relevant experience from his work on a recent and very similar complex unitised sales insolvency, the Northern Powerhouse Developments insolvency. The similarities between the operation of Carlauren Group and the NPD are striking”.

The application claims that despite Carlauren raising “over £75m for the purchase and redevelopment of properties into luxury care homes … not a single scheme has been delivered”.

“The group only operated two care homes without any of the luxury facilities and service promised to investors. Both of those care homes traded at substantial losses and were closed in July/August 2019. It had nine operational hotels, none of which are luxury facilities.”

Murray claims to have secured a £10m rescue deal of his own. He denies there is a £50m shortfall, or misusing investor funds, and says the jet, yachts and cars were acquired as part of “an exclusive membership programme”.

The case continues.


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