Two businesses connected to David J. Brown, the startup founder ousted from ad tech startup Ve Interactive, have gone into liquidation with hundreds of thousands of pounds owed to staff and HMRC.
The two firms are boutique shop Clerkenwell London, and high-end furniture maker Tree Couture. Their insolvency marks the continued unravelling of Brown’s business ventures after Ve Interactive was rescued from administration by a consortium of its investors.
Despite the fact the firms were meant to be separate, Brown allegedly spent £11.5 million of Ve Interactive’s money propping up these other ventures, according to a Sunday Times report. Brown described the allegations as “cheap jibes,” and has issued a legal challenge to the article.
Brown, who is now being investigated by Ve Interactive’s new management, set up Clerkenwell London in 2013. His investment firm Thinkers HQ is the only listed shareholder. It’s also listed as a shareholder in Tree Couture, alongside designer Troo Heath-Crew. Thinkers HQ has itself has gone into liquidation, according to The Financial Times.
According to company filings, Clerkenwell London has filed for a creditors’ voluntary liquidation — essentially meaning the firm has realised it can’t pay its debts. The company owes more than £5.5 million to its creditors. Some £5 million of that is owed to Thinkers HQ, but there’s also £132,570 owed to HMRC, and more than £15,000 owed to employees for wages and holiday pay.
The company also owes £1,200 to Blippar, another UK tech startup who former employees said faces cashflow problems.
According to the filings, Clerkenwell House has around £73,000 in assets which it will initially use to pay off its former employees. That leaves administrators with around £58,000 to pay off the multi-million pound debt.
There are no filings showing Tree Couture’s creditors available yet. The administrator for both companies, Ian Yerrill of Yerrill Murphy, did not respond to a request for comment.
It isn’t clear whether Brown remains involved with either company. When Thinkers HQ was liquidated, Brown’s lawyer told The Financial Times he hadn’t been involved with the management of the company for several years. He didn’t respond to a request for comment.
It’s possible several other businesses linked to Thinkers HQ are on the brink of liquidation. Clark is also director of several other businesses connected to Thinkers: fashion company Guirado Design, and cigar website Humadore.com. Neither company’s website works, and Humadore.com has applied to be struck off the UK’s public register of companies.