Scottish Enterprise succeeds in liquidating Steve Sampson's TalentNation over 'misappropriated' use of funds


By The Drum Team | Editorial

September 13, 2011 | 4 min read

Scottish Enterprise has succeeded in its motion to have sporting social networking website TalentNation, founded by former editor of The Scottish Sun, Steve Sampson, liquidated, having invested £1 million, over half of which was placed into Sampson’s own personal bank account.


Mr Sampson was not present at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, nor was any legal counsel, to hear TalentNation placed in the hands of liquidator Grant Thornton, which has been acting as provisional liquidator for some months.

Sampson had previously resisted the motion to place the company into liquidation.

Records held by the Court, and seen by The Drum, show that the motion presented by SE claimed for the company to be wound up for several reasons, with one being that ‘the sum of £500,000 was misappropriated from the company by Mr Sampson on 8 December 2009 and a further sum of £75,000 was so misappropriated by him on 21 December 2009.”

SE also claimed that Sampson and the company had been in ‘persistent’ and ‘material breach of multiple other obligations owed to the petitioner [SE]’ and other investors.

SE claimed that the company was ‘insolvent’ and said that it was 'unable to meet its debts’.

In a section headlined ‘Misappropriation of Company Assets’, the paper claimed that on 8 December 2009, ‘Mr Sampson instructed the instantaneous transfer of the sum of £500,000, out of subscription monies received that day by the company from the petitioner and Carswell Ltd, from the company’s brand account to a personal bank account held, jointly, by him and his wife.”

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It added that the sum had never been repaid to the company by Sampson.

It continued to claim that on 21 December 2009, Sampson ‘instructed the further transfer of the sum of £75,000 from the company bank account to a personal bank account.” It added that the transfers were treated within the company’s records as ‘payments to a director’ and had never been repaid.

These payments of £575,000 in total, are described in the document as ‘unlawful’ by Scottish Enterprise, which added that they made up ‘a substantial proportion of the company’s assets.’

An investigation conducted by Grant Thornton, following its appointment as provisional liquidator, found that several Premier League and Championship footballers had invested in the company. It was not clear whether they received their investment back.

These investments, made between January 2010 and March 2011 included T Sorensen (£25,000), R Fuller (£50,000), P Fraser (£25,000), M Dawson ((£50,000), S Diao (£150,000), H Currie (£25,000), P Arthur/S Sampson (£50,000 and A Reid (£25,000) – a total of £400,000.

Further individuals made investments also; Kevin Davies (£25,000), Kenwyn Jones (£25,000), Gavin Rae (£12.500) and Kevin McNaughton (£12.500).

According to the investigation; “the state of the company’s records accordingly does not permit the current identities of shareholders, pattern, or paid up states of shareholdings to be identified with any reasonable degree of certainty.” It also highlighted the sum of £112,500 being received by the company after 20 August 2010 which had not been posted to the company’s Sage account, as well as another £80,898 which had been made to Mr and Mrs Sampson between December 2009 and March 2011, on top of the £575,000 previously mentioned.

Also the identities of the payer of sums amounting to £129,290 during the same period, could not be confirmed.

“Further discrepancies’ apparently also exist between the company’s returns to Company’s House as to the identities of its office bearers, the dates of their appointments and resignations and the content of the books and records of the company around the same issued.

As of 30 April 2010, the company’s finances showed a loss of £1,927,343, Grant Thornton’s investigation unveiled, while its current liabilities were £732,000. June 2010 saw a loss of £121,907, with a year-end loss during the same month of £247,099, while ‘aged creditors’ were due the sum of £143,101.

As of 10 June 2011 however, claims by company creditors were worth around £204,399.28. - £104,455.33 of which had been acknowledged by Sampson.

The documents also referred to a ‘dispute’ with Getty Images over payment for the use of photography.

Robert Caven has been appointed at liquidator for the company now, working out of Grant Thornton’s Glasgow office.

A spokesperson for Scottish Enterprise said: “We can confirm that Talent Nation plc is now in liquidation and the liquidator can proceed to wind up the company and act as necessary in the interests of the taxpayer and those dealing with the company.”

Meanwhile, Sampson’s mansion next to Troon Golf course (see gallery) has been on the market for several months, for offers over £1,395,000.


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