Alarm as builder folds
Police have been asked to investigate a company run by a smooth-talking young Aucklander that has gone bust leaving customers and contractors in the Christchurch rebuild in the lurch.
NZ Premium Construction was put into liquidation by its shareholders Craig Johnson, 29, and wife Eva Rose Johnson on February 20 after an appeal to creditors for more time to pay failed.
Initial estimates put the debts of the company at $500,000 but this figure will rise. The company claims to be owed $458,746 and it owes its bank $378,000.
At the time of the liquidation the company was working on a $1.8m repair and rebuild job for Merivale couple Dr Fred Grosse and Victoria Sinclair.
Grosse is a renowned business mentor and business psychotherapist, with offices in Christchurch and Arizona, and Sinclair is a hynotherapist and Reiki master. The couple declined to comment but The Press understands they approached police after paying $1.5m to NZ Premium, which Johnson claims was spent entirely on the repair and rebuild of their Merivale house.
After the liquidation, Johnson returned to Auckland where he has a $1.2m house in Red Beach, Whangaparaoa. He drives a new Nissan Navara ute and his wife drives a white BMW X5 .
Builder Sandro Deitos, originally from Brazil, began working for NZ Premium last year and said the company was always behind on its payments. Johnson had promised to "fix him up" before Christmas but this was an empty promise. He claims he is owed about $90,000. "Promises and promises but nothing happens. He let me down so bad. I needed to borrow money to pay my rent . . . and buy food."
Carl Hamlin, of Enable Roofing, said he had a bad feeling about the company from the start. He had to chase up Johnson for every payment and is owed about $40,000.
"For a brand new business it was a big hit," he said.
United Scaffolding regional manager Mik Kirasic said the company was owed over $40,000 for labour and hire of scaffolding.
Johnson had given "excuse after excuse" for not paying, Kirasic said.
Contractors and suppliers describe Johnson as a likeable and smooth-taking person who "can look you in the eye and tell you a straight-out lie."
"He told my staff they could use his house in Bali anytime," one supplier said.
An insurance source told The Press Johnson was contracted to do about seven jobs when his company collapsed.
"Two people would be in their new houses and three or four other families would have had their houses fixed by now if Johnson had fulfilled his contracts."
Liquidator John Gilbert, in his first report on NZ Premium, said the company had significant contracts in place on behalf of insurance companies but "some invoices were disputed".
"The director advanced significant sums to the company in an effort to trade through. However suppliers and other creditors were not prepared to support any proposal to trade out so the decision has been made to liquidate."
Eight days before the liquidation, Johnson formed another company called NZ Premium Construction 2014. Johnson was its initial director and shareholder but he resigned and was replaced by Auckland accountant Fergus Cleaver on February 20.
The company's name was changed to Kwik Management on February 24.
Johnson came to Christchurch in the middle of 2011 and got work as an assessor for the Maiden Group which was doing assessments and advisory work for Lumley Insurance. When Maiden began doing repair and rebuild work, he worked as a project manager. He left the company at the end of 2012 after a falling out and struck out on his own, taking over some of Maiden's clients including Grosse and Sinclair.
Johnson said he had nothing to hide. "I am confident in my business acumen and business ethics." he said. Every cent of the $1.5m the company had received from Grosse and Sinclair had been spent on their job, he maintained.
A last progress payment which Gross and Sinclair refused to pay would have cleared the company's debt to subcontractors. The collapse was also caused by Lumley Insurance disputing invoices, he said.
To say he was living a lavish lifestyle in Auckland was rubbish, he said.
The BMW (cost $85,000) was financed and his house was heavily mortgaged.
"I would swear on my kids . . . it was heartbreaking . . . I'm struggling to feed my family and it will take me ten years to pay off the debt."