Developer's empire unravels

OCCUPANT: developer Dennis Thompson says has lost everything and  he is a tenant in this Banks Avenue mansion.
David Hallett
OCCUPANT: developer Dennis Thompson says has lost everything and he is a tenant in this Banks Avenue mansion.

He may still look rich but he has lost everything, says Christchurch developer Dennis Thompson.

The developer has put a suite of companies into liquidation in the last year but still appears to be living in the lap of luxury, occupying one of Christchurch's grandest houses and racing champion trotters.

However, Thompson says he is a tenant in the Banks Avenue mansion and owns only 10 per cent of a lease of champion trotters Dream Machine and The Ultimate Galleon. Dream Machine won the $70,000 Sales Trot at Ashburton in April.

Thompson said yesterday he was allowed to stay at Banks Avenue until its owners, pork tycoons Denver and Sally Glass, completed renovations and sold it. The mansion was built by Thompson as his own residence.

The couple, who own part of the Freshpork empire, recently purchased the historic Daresbury property in Fendalton Road from Thompson and his partner Sharon Bartlett.

Thompson, a former drainlayer and tree feller who was brought up in a state house, said the majority of the 17 companies that had either been put into voluntary liquidation or forced into liquidation by creditors in the last year had sold their properties and needed to be "tidied up".

"The property market has been bad and we've been hit really hard and in most cases I have handed the properties back to the mortgagees. I don't think we have any left. The mortgagees are in control now."

Some of the companies had no debts but it was true the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) was owed a "few bob".

"A lot of the stuff is out of our control. We don't owe a lot of people," he said.

Asked if the companies were being collapsed to avoid his tax debts, he said the problem was the companies had no money.

Neither did he have any money personally, he said. He would have to get a job like everybody else.

He had sold all his horses and only had a racing lease on Dream Machine and The Ultimate Galleon.

"All I'm doing is giving myself a bit of an interest."

Thompson said all his property holdings had just about gone. He had received $12.5m for Lilybank Station in Tekapo last year, which was a good profit, but finance companies had "got the lot".

He agreed it was hard giving up a wealthy lifestyle and selling his Bentley (he now drives a Range Rover) but he had never been a "big noter".

"I don't try to be high profile at all. I wear the same black shirt everywhere I go. I don't go to the pub. I don't big note. I just try to do my own thing as privately as I can. Whenever I go to the races I don't go into the highfalutin stuff. I just watch my horse and come home."

His partner, Sharon Bartlett, was listed as the only director of his 49 companies mainly for convenience, he said.

"When I went broke 20 years ago, Sharon set up a few companies and afterwards I could have traded but we never bothered to. I did all of it. Everybody knows that. I never hid it. I make most of the decisions."

It was time to have a break, he said.

"In all fairness, you can't take the pressure forever. An enforced layoff might not be the worst."

One of Bartlett's and Thompson's better known companies, Park Terrace Apartments Ltd, was forced into liquidation by Inland Revenue this week. Its debts have not yet been quantified but the company, according to Land Information Office records, still owns 17 of the 19 luxury apartments it developed opposite Hagley Park in Park Terrace. All the properties are heavily mortgaged and sales are not expected to produce enough to satisfy any more than the first mortgagees.

Four of their companies were placed in liquidation on July 11 owing creditors about $4m, and four were liquidated on Tuesday Hornby Property Investments Ltd, Cryers Road Holdings Ltd, Wanaka Property Investments Ltd, and Colombo Holdings Ltd. Their debts have yet to be finalised.


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