Politics

Fox’s failed business owes at least $160k

Former MP Marama Fox owes a group of companies at least $160,000 after her business failed to get off the ground.

The former Māori party co-leader set up her business after her party was ousted from Parliament in last year's election.

She was travelling the country in an effort to get investors for a proposed venture to build environmentally friendly, affordable homes.

However, she failed to secure finance for potential investors and was unable to pay her bills.

On Thursday, Fox told Newsroom she was still confident she would be able to secure the necessary finance to pay back everything she owed.

Marama Fox Consultancy Group Tapui was placed into liquidation on August 28, following proceedings at the High Court in Wellington brought by Masterton IT company Ohnyx IT Solutions.

The first liquidator's report, which was delivered last month, showed she ran up costs of $160,000. Of this $156,000 was owed to unsecured creditors and included fees for IT, travel costs, interior design, logo design, whiteware, and debt collection, among others. The report listed 14 creditors.

Liquidator Grant Reynolds said the company was under-capitalised from the outset.

“Contracts that the company had been working on failed to complete and as such it was unable to charge fees and commissions,” he said in the report.

The initial report did not show the full picture. Reynolds said he had not received all of the records for the company.

It also said Fox was taking steps to personally arrange finance to pay all of the company creditors. It did not elaborate what those steps were, or where she expected the money to come from.

Self-employed Rotorua travel agent Amy Turuta was left nearly $40,000 out of pocket after Fox did not pay her travel and accommodation bills, which included thousands spent on food and beverages while entertaining prospective investors.

The Rotorua mother said she had not heard from Fox since May this year, despite frequent emails, calls and texts.

At this stage it was a “waiting game” to find out whether she would recover any of the costs from Fox. “Definitely not holding my breath though,” she said.

"Of course I'm devastated that it has come to this and I apologise unreservedly," Fox said in a brief statement sent to Newsroom last month.

On Thursday, Fox said she still had some potential investment deals on the table, which she believed would give her the capital to pay everybody what they were owed, as quickly as possible.

She said it would cover the $160,000, which she believed was the total amount owed.

“We had some housing opportunities that we’ve been trying to get through and done with developers, and they’re still on the table… and we are confident those will still go ahead, they just obviously didn’t go ahead in time to avoid this.

“And so I’m meeting with people, based on that, to arrange finance so that they can be paid while we sort these things out.”

Fox said she expected the company’s liquidation to be reversed.

When she set up the business last year she had been promised a seeding grant and projects.

However, the money didn’t come through.

“So we believed we were in a position to go about the set up, and then nothing happened, and then it all went south.”

Some of the money needed to pay back creditors could come from Fox’s personal assets, if she did not secure enough finance through the business.

“I’m preparing to sell my house if I have to. We’d like to avoid that but we’re willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that people are not left out of pocket.”

The former Māori Party co-leader and mother of nine (grandmother of seven) entered Parliament in 2014.

She left Parliament after last year’s election, when her party received just 1.1 percent of the vote and won no electorate seats.

Following media coverage of the company’s liquidation last month, Fox resigned from the Māori Party.

A written statement from the party’s executive said she had made a significant contribution.

“We support her decision to resign in order to focus on issues related to her private business.

“We know that her absolute priority is to repay any outstanding debts, and we believe that is the right and proper course of action for her to take.”

Following the election, she talked about her business plans to build environmentally friendly, sustainable, prefab-style homes to help tackle homelessness.

The liquidator described the business as consulting with developers and other stakeholders in an attempt to raise funds and other resources to provide affordable housing, mainly to Māori.

Earlier this year Fox appeared on reality television show Dancing with the Stars, and in a magazine interview revealed she had split with her husband of 29 years.

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