Graeme Brown, Birmingham Post, 25th February, 2011
A Worcestershire businessman who hoped to revive the MG racing brand has been hit with a new setback after his headquarters was repossessed over a £400,000 debt. Will Riley boasted that he would make the famous Longbridge marque a world force again with his bespoke two-seater coupés built by hand at his rural headquarters and costing up to £90,000.
However, first he lost the right to use the famous red octagon logo after a costly court battle with Chinese motor giant Nanjing, which bought MG after it collapsed in 2005. Now his factory unit in Eardiston, near Tenbury Wells, is in the possession of bankers who seized it last month over an outstanding loan.
The eccentric Mr Riley defiantly said he would unveil a new car next week and is preparing to file a writ against the Royal Bank of Scotland within days. He said that the bank had been ‘negligent’ and had misled him over assurances that it had the facility to recover taxes from Italy, where he once had a factory.
‘RBS has tried to cut off my income by repossessing the premises but I have found somewhere else,’ said Mr Riley. ‘It misled me in that it claimed to have the facilities to recover VAT from Italy but two years later I have never received it. That is the equivalent of £525,000 and the bank has repossessed my premises over a £400,000 debt, even though I paid off a smaller loan to them.
‘The bank is unquestionably guilty of failing to support small businesses even though it is propped up with our taxes.’ Mr Riley said his workforce had moved to a new building nearby and had been developing a new car.
He said he hoped to be able to unveil it on March 1 and revealed it was based on the SV. Mr Riley developed the SV from rights he acquired from the fall-out of the MG Rover collapse. However, Nanjing, which bought the rest of the firm for £53 million in 2005, said Mr Riley never had the right to be able to use the MG name or logo.
The Chinese company won a High Court battle in February last year and Mr Riley dropped MG from his company name. ‘We hope to be in position to unveil this new car next week,’ he said. ‘It will be based on the SV but will be lighter and more powerful as well as being re-badged. It is back from the paint shop and is being re-assembled but there are one or two hurdles to clear yet.’
Mr Riley claimed to be employing seven full and part-time staff and said the company would have been solvent were it not for difficulties with the bank. ‘If we had the tax back from Italy, everything would be fine,’ he added. ‘But the bank is making things difficult for us.’
Mr Riley is still involved in a dispute with former employee Tony Cox who won £13,500 from the company at a tribunal. Former general manager Mr Cox, from Selly Oak, told the hearing last year that he was not paid a penny during nine months at the firm.
Mr Riley then filed a £16,000 counter claim against Mr Cox, alleging that the work he carried out was sub-standard. A bank spokesman said it did not comment on individual cases.
[Source: Birmingham Post]