Belinda Feek is a NZ Herald reporter

Former All Black Brad Thorn's house deal turns sour

Brad Thorn says the company fell well short after his three years' promotional work without recompense. Photo / Getty Images
Brad Thorn says the company fell well short after his three years' promotional work without recompense. Photo / Getty Images

A former All Black is publicly axing his association with a New Zealand building company after he and his family were left without a home despite being promised a discounted house in exchange for more than three years of promotional activity.

Brad Thorn, who played 59 tests for the All Blacks between 2003-2011, had his face on a billboard above Blenheim Rd, one of Christchurch's busiest roads, for nearly four years endorsing David Reid Homes Canterbury, in just one of many public advertisements for the company.

However, despite Thorn fulfilling his part of the deal, he and wife Mary-Anne have been left with nothing to show for it.

Thorn said he felt compelled to speak out as he had endorsed the company for three years but they had "fallen well short".

Mary-Anne Thorn said they were approached by Dave More, the owner of the Canterbury franchise, in late 2010 to build them a new home at a discounted rate of 40 per cent in exchange for Brad Thorn, who is now forwards coach for the Queensland Reds development side, doing radio and print advertising, and promoting the company on a billboard.

The Thorns suggested they pull the pin on the idea after the devastating February 22, 2011 earthquake struck leaving many people homeless. Mary-Anne Thorn claims More was adamant he wanted to continue with the deal, and the build could happen while the Thorns were in Japan.

The new home was to be built on a Christchurch property the Thorns already owned.

However, the build was hamstrung as the people who bought the existing house took a year to move it off their property, meaning crucial geotechnical ground work couldn't begin.

By 2012 the family were back in Christchurch. Because of new stringent building rules in the city, the Thorns' house had to be redesigned and their discount reduced to 25 per cent.

But their frustrations were growing as months passed and nothing happened.

"I'm not joking, we were getting to the end of 2013 and we still didn't even have the plans in council," Mary-Anne Thorn told the Herald on Sunday.

"We knew other people building in Christchurch and it took them three months to get their plans done and into council."

On top of all their delays, Mary-Anne Thorn was shocked to be told by a supplier that their house was going to be a showhome.

I just feel that I have to [let people know] because I promoted this place and put my integrity on the line and they've fallen way short.
Brad Thorn

David Reid Homes Canterbury was to rent the home from the Thorns for six months and show potential new customers through it.

In 2014, there was still no progress, and the Thorns discovered More was selling his half share in the business.

They claim they were assured their house would be signed over in the sale, but it wasn't.

Current general manager of the franchise, Chris Solly, agreed to honour the contract but only if it was built as a showhome, she said.

"At this point we lost all faith in the company and decided to walk away with a loss."

Brad Thorn described the ordeal as a "shambles" and wants people to know he no longer supports the business.

"The reason why I feel responsible to say something is because I have been the face of them for more than three years promoting them to people. I just feel that I have to [let people know] because I promoted this place and put my integrity on the line and they've fallen way short."

More declined to comment and referred the Herald on Sunday to the company's national chief executive Ben Allan.

Allan said he had limited knowledge of the agreement and said as far as he knew the house was always meant to be a showhome, which the company was happy to build.

Solly, who is now general manager of the franchise, said he tried to accommodate the Thorns' wishes but none of his four options were acceptable.

Those options included the couple paying extra to get the nicer fittings earlier agreed with More, or "do a show home deal".

He said he was unaware of the deal made with More before he took over the company and was "handed a pretty rough pass".

"I tried to find a way to work with them but it didn't work out."

- Herald on Sunday

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