Blue Chip co-founder Mark Bryers regularly visited an Auckland brothel, sometimes spending thousands of dollars to block-book the venue and its women.
A Herald on Sunday investigation has revealed Bryers, 50 - whose personal wealth is estimated at $70 million on the NBR Rich List - was a frequent visitor at The HQ Club (The Headquarters Gentleman's Retreat) in Auckland's downtown Gore St in the latter half of last year.
Bryers sometimes visited on his own and sometimes with other men, said one source. The Herald on Sunday has confirmed that on at least one occasion, the men who accompanied Mr Bryers were business associates.
Bryers would often block-book the club, one source said. On these occasions, the source said, HQ owner Josh Ford would close the premises and a sign would be placed outside, saying it was closed for a private function.
One source said Bryers would pay for alcohol and the women on a credit card. The source estimated the bill would have been between $5000 and $10,000 a visit, depending on how many girls were at the club at the time.
The revelations come as thousands of distressed Blue Chip investors are still waiting to hear if they will see any of the millions of dollars owed on deals involving 2000 properties after the liquidation of 20 companies associated with the Blue Chip property investment scheme in New Zealand. Liquidators said on Friday there was little hope of any money being available to pay people - the companies could owe as much as $58 million. Mr Bryers has pledged $25 million from one of his latest property developments as one option of recovering a significant amount of investors' money. That has yet to be approved by the liquidator.
The Herald on Sunday has spent the past two weeks verifying Mr Bryers' HQ visits with a number of sources.
In August last year, Mr Bryers booked out HQ, arriving around 11pm with three business associates, two of whom stayed with Mr Bryers until about 6am the next day. Mr Bryers shut himself in a room with several women, one source said.
Mr Bryers co-founded Blue Chip with former bankrupt Bob Bangerter seven years ago. Mr Bryers resigned as an executive and director early last year - but maintained close links as a consultant. Last year, Blue Chip re-organised its business in New Zealand, farming out its operations to franchise-holders. Bangerter helped run the franchise operation with Mr Bryers acting as a consultant.
The Herald on Sunday sent a list of specific questions to Mr Bryers about HQ, but all he would say - both personally and through his lawyer - was that he denied the allegations, without specifying which allegations he was denying. He spoke off the record to the Herald on Sunday's editor, but these comments cannot be reported. His lawyer had earlier threatened to seek an injunction unless the newspaper gave a commitment that it would not publish a story. Mr Bryers lives in a $3 million home in Remuera and drives a silver Mercedes. He is a member of the Remuera Golf Club (with a 10 handicap) and plays the occasional game at Gulf Harbour where he has plans to build a five-star luxury resort.
HQ owner Josh Ford said he had known Mark Bryers for about 10 years through Mr Ford's occupation as an electrician in the building industry. Mr Ford said he could not speak about what happened at HQ and pleaded for its name not to be mentioned.
"Please be very, very careful... Please don't, for your sake, not mine... Please, I'm asking you. You start to involve things that you know nothing about."
Told that HQ would be named, Mr Ford said: "That's going to have some interesting results. OK? Been nice to talk to you. You take care. You'll need it," he said, before hanging up. The following day Mr Ford said he wanted to "deny any link between the HQ and Mark Bryers".
He knew Mr Bryers through electrical work he had done for Blue Chip and on Mr Bryers' home, he said. Asked about Mr Bryers' visits to HQ, Ford said "I'm denying everything."
One of the women who worked at HQ last year, and was allegedly known to Mr Bryers, initially said, "Oh f***" when called by the Herald on Sunday and asked about any link to Mr Bryers.
In a second call she said she had met him socially a few times outside HQ but denied he had been at the club. In subsequent calls the woman answered "no comment" to every question.