At the end of January, the news came out that Norton Motorcycles had gone into administration (which is basically the British way of saying, it’s bankrupt). Now, the administrators going over the company’s books have released some paperwork, and the UK media are raising some serious questions.
For years, Norton’s been in the news as the company asked for public money, either from the government or in a crowdfunding effort that ended after Norton said it found private financing. There have also been murmurings of long wait times for motorcycles after down-payments were made — that sort of thing.
Now, Britain’s ITV has published a story that says part of Norton’s funding came from the pensions of 228 people, which were entirely invested into the company. Those pensions are now at risk, and ITV says the pensioners were told they could invest in the company tax-free, and were later sent tax bills. Two men involved with this scam were sent to prison, although Norton CEO Stuart Garner says he was unaware of what was going on. Those two men were actually sentenced in regards to an earlier scam, which ITV says had provided the funds for Garner’s initial buy-up of the company (an interview back in 2013 from BikerGlory goes into some details on this).
But that’s all old news. More currently, reports ITV, Norton had cash tied up in areas that don’t involve motorcycles at all. ITV cites the administrator’s report, prepared by financial experts who’ve gone over Norton’s books in the wake of the company’s recent collapse. As per ITV, “The document details that Norton owns a fleet of luxury cars including: six Aston Martins, three Range Rovers and an F-Type Jaguar. BDO values the collections at just under £800,000.
“The BDO report also reveals that, during the financial year ended in March 2018, Stuart Garner had borrowed £160,000 from the company, a loan that appears to still be outstanding.
“In the same accounts, a separate loan of £324,002 made by Norton to one of Garner’s other companies was ‘deemed irrecoverable’ and was ‘written off in the year’.”
Remember, Norton’s gone bust over £300,000 (about $510,000 Cdn.) in taxes owed to the British government.
There’s plenty more to chew on in that ITV article, and we recommend you read it here. As a result of the disconcerting findings in the administrator’s report, as well as the unhappy pensioners, the chair of the UK parliament’s public accounts committee is now asking for an inquiry. The British government has sunk millions into Norton over the past decade, and MP Meg Hillier wants to find out where all that money has gone.
Many riders and pensioners feel the same. In past years, Norton’s had a reputation for delivering bikes late, even after partial or full payment. There have also been allegations of motorcycles scavenged for parts at the factory after being sent back for warranty work, with Norton fitting those bits on to other machines and selling them on. Shocking as that may sound, more than one customer has made that accusation. There’s other equally wild stuff alleged at the @NotNorton_Moto Twitter account as well.