THROUGH shows like Rip Off Republic and Show Me The Money on RTÉ, Eddie Hobbs has become a household name.
His glowing reputation makes him a valuable asset on any company board of directors. His presence carries an assurance that no stone will be left unturned in ensuring financial probity.
Or so you would imagine. But a trawl through his directorships shows that he should perhaps keep a closer eye on the companies of which he is a director.
While nobody could hold Hobbs responsible for every aspect of the companies he is associated with, it does bear mentioning that a number of ‘administrative oversights’ have led to two of them having embarrassing problems with the Companies Registration Office.
One firm was temporarily dissolved, and another faces being struck off for filing late and unaudited accounts.
Last night, Hobbs insisted that the companies involved are ‘non-trading companies that have no third-party creditors’ and that their shareholders are ‘happy’.
But he accepted that the fact that one firm 3Q Software Solutions (Nominees) Ltd had failed to file accounts ‘is not the sort of corporate governance I would expect from a company I am involved with’.
Hobbs is a director of nine Irish-registered companies. One of the most successful is Financial Development & Marketing Ltd, which based on its current capital and reserves has been valued at around e100,000.
Although its latest set of accounts shows a loss of e15,570 from the previous year, its total e149,985 assets as of October 31, 2006 are considerably more than they were in 2001, when they were just e4,609.
But the accounts of property firm Hiberno-Hungarian Enterprises Ltd do not seem so healthy they have been in the red since 2004. As of December 31, 2006, the company had debts of more than e420,000.
Hiberno-Hungarian Enterprises Ltd’s auditors, Cox O’Neill & Associates, urged in their February 14 report that an extraordinary general meeting be held.
The Dublin-based chartered accountants concluded: ‘The net assets of the company are not more than half the amount of its called-up share capital and, in our opinion, on that basis there did exist, at 31 December 2006, a financial situation which requires the convening of an extraordinary general meeting.’ At the time those accounts were filed, there was e14,846 cash in the bank and in hand.
The same auditor’s opinion was given on the previous year’s accounts. At that time, there was e1,842 cash in the bank and in hand. As part of a three-page statement issued last night, Hobbs said of the phrase used by the auditors: ‘The accounts carry a very common statement by the auditor that its net assets are less than half its called-up share capital. This is frequently the case for non-trading companies and is easily explained.
‘Its only cost is the annual audit and, if this costs more than half its cash in the bank, you will find this auditors’ comment. The point of this clause is to bring the asset/shareholder liability ratio to the attention of the shareholders, but in these cases the shareholders are perfectly aware and happy with the position as a non-trading company.’ The same auditor’s opinion was given about Briganti Productions Ltd, which lists Hobbs and his wife, Mary Fehily-Hobbs, as the sole directors.
In January, auditors Robert Cunningham & Co the same auditors for Financial Development & Marketing Ltd said in their report on the loss-making Kildare-based production company that there also existed ‘a financial situation’. Again, Hobbs dismissed the idea that there could be any significance in the wording, pointing out that the company was non-trading and the shareholders himself and his wife were happy with the accounts.
Last night Robert Cunningham, who handles Briganti’s accounts, said: ‘I have no problem with this company. There are no issues surrounding it. I would personally guarantee 100 per cent the integrity and financial standing of Eddie Hobbs and his companies.’ Another company of which Hobbs is a director is the Veterinary Ireland Pension Trustees Ltd, which was last year struck off for failing to file necessary paperwork.
The error was rectified, a e300 fee paid, and the company for which Hobbs has been listed as a director since April 2003 was reinstated about a month later. He is also listed as a director of 3Q Software Solutions (Nominees) Ltd, which faces being struck off because it should have filed accounts by the annual return date of December 14 last year.
When these failed to arrive 28 days later, a reminder was sent out. As it is a new company, the firm could have sent in unaudited accounts but, because the firm was late, they needed to be independently audited. So when the firm sent in accounts, they were returned because they were unaudited.
Staff at the Companies Registration Office said on Friday that they had not heard from the firm since and that it faced being struck off.
Hobbs said that this company was set up in error to hold investors’ interests in another business. He said the matter was being resolved by 3Q’s managing director. 3Q’s business is currently carrying losses but, Hobbs stressed, it is at an early stage of development and should be profitable.
In reaction to points put to him about the above companies, Hobbs invoked a High Court case which stemmed from his association with disgraced former corporate financier Tony Taylor, with whom he worked in the 1990s.
Taylor, at whose firm Hobbs was a director, was sentenced to five years’ jail in 2001 after pleading guilty to five fraud charges. Hobbs reported Taylor to the authorities and even hired a private detective to track him down when he fled to England.
Last night, Hobbs brought up the matter as an example of what he called ‘the acid test of my probity’. He said: ‘The High Court has had occasion to examine the standards I set for myself as a company director and ruled that faced with the most pressing circumstances I acted with determination and efficiency and acted honestly and responsibly in doing so.’ He said Hiberno-Hungarian Enterprises, the Veterinary Ireland Trustees, Briganti Productions and 3Q Software Solutions, were all nontrading companies.
Of the decision to dissolve The Veterinary Ireland Trustees, Hobbs admitted: ‘Some time ago, this company was quite correctly struck off the companies register for an administrative oversight.
‘The company was immediately reinstated once the oversight was found. The company does not trade and, as such, never had a corporation tax liability which the missing Revenue form was in connection with. The form had been mislaid in The Veterinary Ireland Trustees Ltd’ auditors’ offices due to the lack of an individual’s name on the initial correspondence.’ Regarding 3Q’s late filing of accounts, he said: ‘I am aware that there was a delay in filing accounts for that company but, as far as I was concerned, that matter was being dealt with. I’ve already been in touch with the directors.
‘If accounts are late being filed by a company, there is a reminder sent out and, in this case, a reminder was sent out and that should not have happened. That is not the sort of corporate governance I would expect from a company I am involved with.’