May 13th 2008
by Neil Jenman
A disgraced New Zealand property spruiker whose network of companies recently went into liquidation has reportedly set up business in Australia.
Mark Bryers is the co-founder of a property group with a safe sounding name - Blue Chip Financial Solutions.
In February this year, nineteen companies associated with Blue Chip in New Zealand were placed in liquidation leaving an estimated 3,000 investors - many of them middle-aged people approaching retirement - wondering what had happened to around $70 million of their savings.
Ironically, Mark Bryers - who drives a Bentley Continental GT, plus a Mercedes, plus an Aston Martin (depending on his mood) - is estimated to be worth the same amount as the investors are owed - $70 million. Although somewhat elusive lately, Bryers is still reportedly living the high life.
New Zealand's Serious Fraud office is investigating the Blue Chip collapse which, over the past few weeks, has become the biggest property story in the country. Some New Zealand property experts are describing it as the worst property collapse in decades.
Blue Chip's method of operating was simple - scare people into thinking they were headed for poverty in their retirement, convince them that Blue Chip offered the solution to a lifetime of security by investing in top quality property and, presto, all would be well, provided everything was left in the hands of Blue Chip.
The touted scheme was that Blue Chip Financial Solutions would source residential properties (usually apartments), arrange the financing (usually by taking a mortgage on the family home of the investors), take care of the leasing and the management of the properties - while charging a large range of what has been described as hefty fees.
Allegations of serious wrong-doings have now surfaced; these include that many of the properties were grossly over-priced (or, in some cases, did not exist); that rent has not been paid to many investors and that some investors are about to lose their family homes. It's a large scale tragedy.
Mark Bryers, however, seems to be blaming the media, claiming that "massive damage" has been caused because of "statements that are just reckless".
Meantime, Bryers is reported to be the man behind Barkley Walsh, a company that was registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) on March 28, 2008. Barkley Walsh claims to be a subsidiary of an ASX-listed company, Northern Crest Investments which was previously called Blue Chip Financial Solutions.
Several New Zealand journalists and property watchers are concerned that Bryers is about to target Australian investors in the same manner that he targeted New Zealand investors. "You've got to warn Aussies about this man," said a senior New Zealand journalist last week.
Aussies, be warned.
Mark Bryers did not respond to a request for a comment for this article.