Belfast Telegraph

Boom to bust: The Ulster millionaire family who lived a lie

By Adrain Rutherford and John Mulgrew

They were the family who had it all — or so it seemed. To their friends and neighbours, Samuel and Lorna Moore enjoyed a lifestyle similar to the rich and famous, splashing out thousands of pounds on luxury status symbols including a helicopter and top-of-the-range rally car.

But behind the extravagance and big spending the reality was somewhat different, and the couple were living way beyond their means.

In a story indicative of the boom and bust of recent years, their company, Pomeroy-based building firm SH Moore & Sons Limited, later went into liquidation, owing millions and leaving 20 people out of work.

Sister companies controlled by the family are believed to owe up to £20m to the Presbyterian Mutual Society (PMS), whose collapse required a bailout by the taxpayer.

Yesterday, the administrator appointed to the PMS said they were not in a position to comment on the matter.

Earlier this week Mr and Mrs Moore, along with their son Stephen, were banned from acting as company directors for 10 years — completing their spectacular fall from grace.

It has now emerged that the family continued to flash the cash even when they could no longer afford it.

The “excessive” spending included £496,800 on a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter in June 2007.

And in January 2008 — 12 months before the company went into liquidation — a World Rally Championship car was purchased for £470,000.

The sale of both items after liquidation resulted in a loss to creditors of £561,300.

Other malpractice at the company included filing false and misleading accounts for the period ending August 31, 2007 — the share capital and net assets were understated by £99,997 — and knowingly allowing and accepting fictitious invoices from associates.

It also emerged that company funds had been misapplied, with £1.6m loaned to connected firms without obtaining security.

Yesterday the Belfast Telegraph spoke to Samuel Moore about his family’s financial situation.

Mr Moore said he did not wish to comment on any of the issues put to him by this paper which included his family’s debts and their portfolio of empty properties strewn across Northern Ireland.

But Mr Moore did say that the purchase of a custom-built World Championship specification rally car in January 2008 was made while “things were going well”.

Quite how and where it all went wrong for the Moores is uncertain, but the property crash appears to be a major factor.

When SH Moore & Sons went into liquidation, it owed around £86,000 to the PMS.

Its most recent accounts filed with Companies Registry cover the year ending August 31, 2007.

At that point the company had fixed assets of £3,334,475, compared to £1,220,482 for the previous year.

According to the accounts, obtained by the Belfast Telegraph, the company owed £3,015,755 to creditors who were due payment within one year and had £1,957,891 in debts falling after more than 12 months.

The company was also owed £1,632,725 by debtors and had stocks worth £311,648.

The PMS also loaned money to Moore Associates (NI) and Li Developments — both part of the SHM Group controlled by Mr Moore — in early 2008, close to the peak of the property boom.

But then the bubble burst, with the value of development land plummeting by up to 90% while properties saw their value halved.

Last December the PMS — which had almost £90m worth of loans linked to development land — appointed receivers to properties owned by Moore Associates (NI) and Li Developments.

It is understood the two companies owe more than £20m.

Receivers Colliers International were appointed to sites across Northern Ireland in December.

The portfolio, which stretches from Dervock in north Antrim to Fivemiletown in Co Tyrone, includes a row of vacant terraced houses in the Queen Street area of Ballymoney.

Other financial institutions have already moved against the SHM Group.

Last year Northern Bank appointed receivers to an apartment development in Ballymena.

An entire estate of three partially-built houses and 10 partially-built apartments in Ballymena which was being developed by a SHM company had been on sale earlier this year for £750,000.

Collapse leaves troubled PMS with £20m headache

Trouble for investors at the Presbyterian Mutual Society (PMS) first began in November 2008.

The group was forced into administration in the wake of the international banking crisis and had left some 10,000 of its customers unable to access their savings.

It originally hit problems when members began to withdraw their cash in 2008, while the society was not covered by the Government guarantee scheme protecting other financial institutions.

In May last year a rescue package underwritten by the Westminster Government and the Northern Ireland Executive was agreed in an attempt to repay the thousands of customers who had lost out as the result of its collapse.

The £232m bailout — the majority made up of a Government loan and thus funded from the public purse — allowed for smaller savers, who invested less than £20,000 with the PMS, to get all of their money back.

Larger investors were to receive 85% back under the terms of the bailout, with the remaining 15% of their money dependent on the disposal of the society’s properties and other assets.

Savers began receiving their first cheques in the post in August last year — bringing an end to the near three-year wait for those who had thousands tied up in the PMS.

It’s understood that companies operated by the SHM Group owe around £20m to the mutual society.

The society has now appointed receivers, including property group Colliers International, to handle a vast range of properties once owned by the SHM Group in order to recoup the monies lost.

Yesterday the administrator behind the Presbyterian Mutual Society said he was not in a position to comment on the ongoing situation.

Why the moores were disqualified

The Department of Trade and Enterprise disqualified the three Moore directors for:

  • Causing and permitting the |Company to file false and misleading accounts for the period ending 31 August 2007 as both the share capital and the net assets were understated by £99,997 and knowingly allowing and accepting fictitious invoices from associates in an attempt to reduce the liability of others to whom the |directors were closely related and/or because the directors used their |services in their personal capacity.
  • Causing and permitting the |Company to misapply company funds by supplying and lending connected companies £1.6m without obtaining security.
  • Causing and permitting the Company to sell a WRC rally car belonging to the Company at an undervalue.
  • Causing and permitting the |Company to allow excessive |expenditure to be incurred by |purchasing a helicopter for £496,800 in June 2007 and a rally car for £470,000 in January 2008, the sale of which items after liquidation resulted in a loss to creditors of £561,300.

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