Phil Taylor is a Weekend Herald and New Zealand Herald senior staff writer.

Mark Bryers' ex-associate goes bankrupt owing $13m

Former Blue Chip boss Mark Bryers. Photo / NZME
Former Blue Chip boss Mark Bryers. Photo / NZME

The director of a group of companies that former Blue Chip boss Mark Bryers helped run in Australia has been declared bankrupt owing A$12.8 million ($13.2m).

Stephen Peter Lacy filed a debtor's petition earlier this month with the Australian Financial Security Authority. Four banks were the biggest of 24 creditors listed.

Lacy was listed as the sole director and shareholder of a range of companies in the Talos Accounting Group, an organisation that the Herald revealed Bryers was helping manage using the name Mark Ryan.

Lacy had signed personal guarantees for millions of dollars of loans associated with the Talos business, an aggregated accounting and financial services operation with some hallmarks of the disastrous Blue Chip companies in New Zealand.

A dozen accounting firms that Talos bought, but did not pay the full amount for, are among creditors listed in Lacy's statement of affairs.

Lacy did not return the Herald's call.

Talos went into liquidation last year.

A liquidator's report lodged in August estimated the company owed one secured and 17 unsecured creditors a total of A$5.2m ($5.36m).

That report comes a year after insolvency firm BRI Ferrier was appointed. Principal Andrew Cummins indicated in his report that no money was available for distribution to creditors and that a supplementary report may be made.

Cummins last year said there had been "allegations of impropriety" but would not elaborate. He did not return the Herald's call this week.

Questioned in the Australian senate about Talos last October, Australian Securities and Investments Commission senior executive leader Warren Day said the commission was aware of allegations and invited the public to provide further information.

A spokesman for Australia's Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions said "they are unable to comment directly on this matter".

Last March, the High Court in Auckland heard accusations Bryers was running Talos Accounting Group, contrary to New Zealand law, but Associate High Court judge Jeremy Doogue said the individual instances put before the court did not disclose activity at director level but showed he was "plainly not just a consultant to the company but was discharging management decisions within it".

The claims were made during Bryers' application to be released from his five-and-a-half year bankruptcy. The Bryers documents the court didn't see

Judge Doogue said that Bryers used the alias Mark Ryan "to deceive people dealing with him in his role at Talos as to [his business history]", and that "Talos and Bryers adopted measures which were designed to portray Bryers as having a less than direct activity in the affairs of Talos than he actually did".

The judge discharged Bryers from his bankruptcy but banned him from acting as a manager or director for another seven years because of the risk he posed.

Bryers was declared bankrupt in 2009 with estimated personal debts of $235 million, believed at the time to be New Zealand's largest bankruptcy. He set up failed property investment company Blue Chip, which cost about 3000 investors more than $80 million.

After Talos went into liquidation last August, Bryers told the Herald that he had been no more than a consultant and that those duties ended a year before the company folded.

Talos was trading "extremely well", he claimed, and he would be "intrigued" to learn the reasons why it failed.

Bryers, who has lived in Australia since 2006, said: "[he was] sick of being a scapegoat for other people's problems."

- NZ Herald

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