‘Re­turns were guar­an­teed – I lost £200,000’

High-risk prop­erty deals pro­moted via a celebrity’s in­vest­ment club cost huge sums when they failed, writes Sam Mead­ows

The Daily Telegraph - Your Money - - MONEY -

Amil­lion­aire prop­erty baron who made his name when he gave a house away to a sin­gle mother in a Chan­nel 4 show pro­moted a num­ber of in­vest­ment schemes that failed, and in which in­vestors who were paid-up mem­bers of his “in­vest­ment club” lost hun­dreds of thou­sands of pounds, Tele­graph Money can re­veal.

Marco Robin­son starred on Get a House For Free last sum­mer in which he spent time with three fam­i­lies in need of hous­ing, be­fore opt­ing to gift a £120,000 flat to a teenage sin­gle mother.

Mr Robin­son’s web­site de­scribes him as a “world author­ity on in­vest­ing, en­trepreneur­ship and fi­nan­cial free­dom” and his so­cial me­dia pro­files make nu­mer­ous ref­er­ences to the Chan­nel 4 show.

How­ever, one in­vestor has lost thou­sands after en­ter­ing into in­vest­ment schemes of­fer­ing guar­an­teed re­turns rec­om­mended to them after be­com­ing a mem­ber of his club.

Mem­bers would pay an an­nual fee to join the club and would be sent var­i­ous in­vest­ment schemes for their con­sid­er­a­tion. Nei­ther the club nor Mr Robin­son son pro­cessed the trans­ac­tions on n be­half of in­vestors, sim­ply charg­ing harg­ing a fur­ther com­mis­sion n for the in­tro­duc­tion.

How­ever, de­spite te charg­ing a com­mis­sion, the club ub mem­ber told Tele­graph Money ney that no steps were taken n to en­sure in­vest­ments ts were suit­able for spe­cific in­di­vid­u­als s and no ques­tions were asked as to po­ten­tial in­vestors’ ’ wealth.

Typ­i­cal in­vest­ment ad­vice sug­gests that only a small per­cent­age of an in­di­vid­ual’s wealth should be put into prop­erty in­vest­ments, which h are of­ten un­se­cured and un­reg­u­lated. Some ad­vis­ers ar­gue such schemes should be com­pletely avoided.

Emails sent to in­vestors from the club state that it car­ried out the high­est level of checks on po­ten­tial schemes, read­ing: “We per­son­ally in­spect and in­ves­ti­gate not just the prop­erty, but also the sur­round­ing area, the de­vel­op­ment plans, growth rates, de­mo­graph­ics and a myr­iad of other info.”

The email con­tin­ues: “You have my solemn word that all fu­ture in­vest­ments, whether lo­cally or in­ter­na­tion­ally, will al­ways go through my strict lab tests.”

How­ever, at least two of the schemes rec­om­mended by the club failed, leav­ing in­vestors with noth­ing.

One mem­ber told Tele­graph Money she paid Mr Robin­son close to £10,000 in sourc­ing fees for two prop­erty in­vest­ments rec­om­mended by the club. She ploughed her pen­sion sav­ings of around £350,000 into a ho­tel in­vest­ment in­vest in Kent and a prop­erty de­vel­op­ment in Liver­pool a after at­tend­ing a sem­i­nar held by Mr Robin­son in a Sin­ga­pore hot ho­tel in around 2012. Both in­vest­ments in­vest ul­ti­mately failed and paid lit­tle, or noth­ing, in the way of o re­turns. The mem­ber de­scribed Mr Robin­son Ro as an in­cred­i­ble in­cre racon­teur. She joined the club, and an be­gan pay­ing the mem­ber­ship fee, after the sem­i­nar. In­voices I and bank state­ments seen by Tele­graph Money re re­veal he was paid aro around £10,000 in com­mis­sions co or “sourc “sourc­ing fees” for the two inv in­vest­ments.

The promised guar­an­teed re­turns on the ho­tel in­vest­ment were paid for lit­tle over a year be­fore dry­ing up. No rental in­come from the de­vel­op­ment in Liver­pool ever ma­te­ri­alised.

Mr Robin­son told Tele­graph Money that any claims of guar­an­teed re­turns were on the part of the de­vel­op­ers. He was merely rec­om­mend­ing po­ten­tial in­vest­ments, and pro­vid­ing an in­tro­duc­tion to the de­vel­op­ers, rather than un­der­writ­ing them.

The prospec­tus for the Kent ho­tel given to in­vestors bore the brand­ing of Marco Robin­son Life­time In­vest­ment Club, and said it “ticks all the good in­vest­ment boxes”. It also stated that the scheme had a “guar­an­teed 10pc re­turn on pur­chase price for 10 years”.

In re­la­tion to the ho­tel scheme, Mr Robin­son said that, once the man­age­ment com­pany had stopped pay­ing the re­turns, he had paid one year’s worth of re­turns out of his own pocket and later of­fered com­pen­sa­tion to those who had lost out.

Emails seen by Tele­graph Money sug­gest the com­pen­sa­tion of­fered was in the form of a prop­erty in­vest­ment scheme of a sim­i­lar na­ture to the orig­i­nal.

The in­vestor said she had no in­ter­est in en­ter­ing into an­other scheme and re­jected the of­fer.

She added: “It isn’t just the sourc­ing fee I lost, it’s the money I in­vested and the re­turns I was promised. I was sup­posed to be mak­ing £40,000 a year from these in­vest­ments.” Al­though the in­vestor has re­ceived some com­pen­sa­tion, she has still sus­tained losses of more than £200,000.

“It’s been night after night of ly­ing in bed wor­ry­ing about this,” she said. “It takes over your whole life. I be­lieve that stress makes you ill and two years after this started I de­vel­oped mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis and I am sure it’s the stress of know­ing I’ve lost our pen­sion.”

Mr Robin­son said: “You are tak­ing an iso­lated case out of thou­sands of happy mem­bers over a 20-year pe­riod of which this per­son was of­fered am­ple com­pen­sa­tion even

though I have no re­la­tion­ship to the de­vel­oper.”

He de­clined to an­swer fur­ther ques­tions about the in­vest­ment club. Chan­nel 4 said it could not com­ment on Mr Robin­son’s per­sonal or busi­ness mat­ters.

Alis­tair Cun­ning­ham, an ad­viser at Win­gate Fi­nan­cial Plan­ning, said un­se­cured prop­erty in­vest­ments were suit­able for al­most no one.

“If you see some­thing of­fer­ing high lev­els of guar­an­teed re­turns you ba­si­cally need to run a mile,” he said.

“I have one client who bought this type of de­vel­op­ment and even though it’s run by a rep­utable com­pany he has been try­ing to get out of it for 14 years. There’s no re­sale mar­ket. If all of his pen­sion wealth was in there, he would be in trou­ble.

“The prob­lem with prop­erty schemes is they give peo­ple a false sense of se­cu­rity, as they can al­ways drive up to the build­ing and see it. The prob­lem is they are not di­verse, of­ten illiq­uid and some­times over­val­ued.”

‘Prop­erty schemes give peo­ple a false sense of se­cu­rity, but it’s hard to get out’

A sem­i­nar at a Sin­ga­pore ho­tel at­tracted in­vestors; Marco Robin­son, be­low

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