Liquidators to talk to high-flyer

22:11, Sep 25 2013
Beechcraft 350
GROUNDED?: The Golden Wings plane, a Beechcraft 350, at Nelson Airport.

While former Enron trader Michael Towarek was throwing a lavish weekend party for his daughter's 16th birthday, liquidators had an appointment with him to discuss the end of one of his Nelson-based companies.

Boy band Titanium performed at the big bash on Saturday night, attended by 190 invited guests, which also featured a mechanical bull and catering by award-winning chef Kevin Hopgood.

Towarek's flying school, Golden Wings Flight Training, is now in the hands of Christchurch liquidators Rhys Cain and Bruce Gemmell, put there by law firm Duncan Cotterill over an unpaid bill for about $7000.

Tasman Sparkies.
ANOTHER BUSINESS: Through Woodland Holdings, Michael Towarek also owns 60 per cent of Tasman Sparkies.

Cain said he was surprised that Towarek - who got Overseas Investment Commission approval to buy a $2.1 million Redwood Valley property in 2007 - had let the liquidation go ahead

He was unwilling to go into details yesterday but confirmed that he and Gemmell would meet Towarek on Monday.

"For whatever reason he has decided not to pay them and the company was tipped into liquidation. We'll know more on Monday."

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But Towarek - who confirmed that he had been a senior UK trader for Enron, the collapsed US corporate giant which had $63.4 billion in assets and became at the time the largest corporate bankruptcy in US history - dismissed the liquidation.

He said the company had already cost him "a massive amount of money" and he didn't want to waste any more on it. "Why would I want to write another cheque?"

Towarek owns a string of Nelson companies through Woodland Holdings, in which he has a 99 per cent interest, or in his own right. 

Today he said Golden Wings' poor performance showed the difficulty in finding suitable people to run his New Zealand companies. He tried to help people, but had found that in many cases people he hired or funded had sat back to just "click the ticket".

"I tried to compensate people well but every single time I'm being taken advantage of. I'm feeling massively disillusioned - I'm actually pulling almost everything back from here and trying to close almost every company involvement I have here."

He said he was born in Poland but brought up in Wales, and had extensive overseas business interests related to the financial markets.

His Enron role was "history" and he didn't want to comment on it.

"I love New Zealand, I love this place, I think it was one of the best decisions we ever made. Most of the people are incredibly nice, it's a beautiful place, we definitely love it here.

"But it is unfortunately not a place to do business."

Towarek said he had been hoping to quietly wind down Golden Wings Flight Training and close it, but a creditor had stepped in with the liquidation proceedings. He also intended to close his charter airline and the Beechcraft was for sale.

But he liked aviation and had gone into Pacific Pilot Training, with the operators of an existing Nelson flight school.

The same day that the liquidation proceedings were served - July 24 - he set up Pacific Pilot Ltd, with another Nelson man, David Marriott, who also has Nelson Pilot Training Ltd in a 50-50 partnership with James Campbell, of Kina Beach Rd.

He owns Golden Wings Ltd - a charter airline which advertises executive travel throughout New Zealand using a plush Nelson-based Beechcraft 350, bought new in 2010. This year's price is US$6.12m ($7.34m).

He also owns JMNT Ltd and a majority shareholding in small electrical contracting firm, Tasman Sparkies Ltd, based at Nelson Airport.

JMNT is in a building previously marked with the name Redwood Management Ltd, another of Towarek's companies which has been struck off.

In December 2011, a spokesman for Towarek said Redwood Management was a business consultancy that would employ up to 10 people by the middle of 2012.

It was struck off in May this year.

In a 2002 Wall Street Journal article on the hedge fund trading that brought about Enron's collapse, Towarek was described as a "senior trader" for ECT Investments, the Enron hedge fund, who had since been employed by Goldman Sachs in London.

In a profile for an institutional equity, trading and technology conference in 2005 he was said to be responsible for automation of equity trading, development of algorithmic trading tools and internalisation of equity flows across various businesses.

The profile said Towarek had also been head trader at Instinet in London and had served as a director at CIBC World Market in London and Toronto.

Nelson