The Gore Files
Hello and welcome to The Gore Files. This is a blog solely devoted to the exploits of one Craig Kieren Gore (aka Jackson Morgan-Phoenix). It makes for lengthy yet interesting and compelling reading for anybody who has ever done or is considering doing business with Craig and/or the companies or ventures he is involved in or associated with. One thing we hope to achieve from this is the prevention of a similar situation to the one faced by the investors in Australian Capital Reserve (ACR) and other property investment companies that have failed in recent times.
Craig’s main business entity is known as Wright Patton Shakespeare, commonly referred to (by themselves) as the WPS group of companies, the WPS financial group of companies and/or the Atkinson Gore group of companies.
Throughout this page we have provided many links to other sites that support what we say. Some of the information contained in these sites is clearly outdated and now wrong. Once the respective organisations publishing these inaccuracies become aware of their errors there is a strong possibility they will be removed and/or corrected. Before this is done we urge you to follow the links as soon as possible so you can see for yourself that what we say is true.
For those who are as yet unfamiliar with Craig here is a brief history.
40 year old Craig lives at 28 Kriedeman Rd Wongawallan, a town of the peaceful Coomera Valley in Queensland. This property is owned not by himself but his wife Thaya Morgan-Phoenix (a clever way of making sure the property stays in the family should anything go bad with WPS). He was born on the 7th of January 1967 to Mike and Lynette Gore.
For those who do not remember, the late Mike Gore was a “white shoe” Gold Coast property developer who initially made a fortune developing Sanctuary Cove. You quite possibly may recall the launch of this development because it was billed as the “Ultimate Event” (featuring headline act Frank Sinatra). The promoter who organised this event was none other than current AVESCO supremo Tony Cochrane (more about him later).
Before his death in 1994 Mike fled Australia for the United States in 1992 owing $45 million in debt as his Sanctuary Cove development collapsed financially. In 1993 Sanctuary Cove officially went into receivership and remained so for nine long years before finally being purchased by Mulpha Australia Limited in 2002.
Craig, feeling that his life was over at age 25 due to the financial collapse of Sanctuary Cove leaving him bankrupt, he “spent his last $20 on a bus ticket to Sydney to look for work”.
Craig Gore and WPS group
We now fast forward a few years to June 23rd 1997 when, according to ASIC ( http://www.asic.gov.au/ ), a company initially known as Right Financial Services Pty Limited was formed (ACN 079 025 942). Founded by Craig and his main business partner, Chartered Accountant John Atkinson; this company is now known today as Wright Patton Shakespeare Pty Limited. Contrary to what is written on the WPS website ( http://www.wps.net.au/ ; see “Key People” in the “About Us” tab) regarding their operation, no group of companies known as WPS was formed in 1997, only Right Financial Services Pty Limited.
In addition to this (also according to ASIC), the company now known as Wright Patton Shakespeare Financial Services Pty Ltd (ACN 094 796 308) was registered on 18th October 2000 under the name Australian Wholesale Financial Services Pty Ltd.
Clearly these dates (1997 and 2000) are not the same. Neither are the original entity’s names a match. One could argue that, by themselves, these facts from ASIC regarding the official company registration dates and names completely contradicting the information contained on the WPS website is not that big a deal and untruths like this are nothing to be concerned about.
You will see further on however that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the “modus operandi” of Mr Craig Gore. It should serve as an initial warning to any current or future clients or partners of Craig’s; stay well away unless you wish to get burnt.
Craig’s reach has now spread to include owning over 140 businesses in four continents with 300 plus employees and a combined turnover professed to be in the in the billions. One of these companies is the now Sydney-based (according to the WPS website in the “Contact Us” tab, even though ASIC has the registered office as Gaven QLD) WPS financial group with over 60 employees and a supposed turnover exceeding $600 million.
Named after three of Craig’s heroes: the Wright brothers, General Patton and William Shakespeare. WPS is actually six separate companies: Realty, Finance, Financial Services, Law (these four are referred to on the WPS website as WPS financial group), Capital, and Motorsports; offering everything from home loans and investment products to salary protection insurance and estate planning.
Craig Gore, Tony Cochrane and
the Australian Vee Eight Supercar Company (AVESCO)
The AVESCO organisation is a collaboration of the Touring Car Entrants Group Australia (TEGA), which governs V8 Supercars and comprises of the teams that take part in the sport, and Tony Cochrane’s (the current AVESCO chairman) company Sports Entertainment Limited (SEL). TEGA owns 75 percent of AVESCO, with SEL owning the remaining 25 percent.
Earlier on we referred to Tony Cochrane and his association with Craig’s father Mike. This earlier association of Tony and Gore senior has since been continued and expanded on by his son Craig. On the surface such an association may appear as nothing to be concerned about of indeed nefarious in any way, however when one investigates such a pairing in greater depth and detail all is not as it seems.
Craig’s stated aim is to exploit V8 Supercar racing and subsequently turn WPS into a multi-billion dollar business including a now established chain of offices around the country.
"Racing cars is secondary to our primary focus which is building the brand and the business of WPS. This is a massive brand building exercise for us and what we have to do is build the brand and build the image and the only way to do that and the best way to do that is by association, and we are associated with the V8 Supercars." said Craig.
Before the start of the 2004 V8 Supercar season WPS was awarded a 10-year contract to be the official financial services provider to V8 Supercars. WPS are also the naming rights sponsor of the Chrysler V8 Supercar Safety Car. What is strange about both these deals is that the sponsors page of the Bathurst 1000 event mini-site ( http://www.v8supercar.com.au/content/bathurst1000/sponsors/ ) has no reference to any of these WPS sponsorship deals in any form whatsoever.
2005 saw the introduction of the Visa V8 Supercard, a credit card partnership between Visa, V8 Supercars, Bendigo Bank and WPS. This card is the product of the previously mentioned financial services contract between AVESCO and WPS. Despite the optimism portrayed by all the parties involved with the launch of the V8 Supercard the lack of information since is notable. There are in fact no details available whatsoever regarding actual customer numbers. The flagship website of the card ( http://www.v8supercard.com.au/ ) appears to have not been updated since 2005 with multiple “coming soon competition announcements” and “as the year (which year, 2005?) progresses the list of companies offering discounts for card holders will get longer and longer” yet no new companies have appeared since the initial card launch.
Craig Gore and Tony Cochrane are not only connected through the WPS/AVESCO deals. Together they announced plans for Seven Mountains, an $800 million property development at Saddleback Mountain near Canungra (in addition to Tony being a shareholder in this development he is also part of the development team). This site would supposedly consist of a Tom Weiskopf designed golf course, Olympic standard equestrian facilities designed by Timothy Court and Company (the Sydney and Beijing Olympic centres designers) in conjunction with Australian Olympic triple gold medallist Andrew Hoy, a five star resort and 1500 homes.
Since this initial announcement, apart from Craig and his businesses outlaying a total of $12.5 million for approximately 830 hectares of Canungra property (giving Craig control of almost all of Saddleback Mountain), nothing else regarding this development has transpired. Various works that Craig and Tony are supposed to be spending $100 million on, including upgrades to major infrastructure such as sewage, roads and a 2500 megalitre water tank, have yet to commence. As you will see further down in another section this is not the first instance of such an occurrence taking place.
In October 2005 Mr Tom Sutton, then a Director of Arrow Air Services Pty Limited (AAS) and the original helicopter pilot of Craig’s WPS Eurocopter EC130B4 for over 3 years, instituted legal action against Craig for unfair dismissal and to recover unpaid holiday pay and overtime. In late 2006 these proceedings were eventually settled out of court with Mr Sutton receiving an undisclosed settlement amount.
It is these associations and events that appear to have now influenced the surprise decision by AVESCO to cancel the contract between AVESCO and AAS.
In early 2007 this recently renewed (for an additional 3-year term) contract between AAS and AVESCO was cancelled unexpectedly by AVESCO. AAS had been the long term third party supplier, sole provider and manager of helicopter based air services for the annual Bathurst 1000 motorsport event. As a result of this surprise termination, questions have arisen as to who really calls the shots in AVESCO. We wonder if this is an example of Tony Cochrane misusing his powers within AVESCO by doing Craig’s dirty work.
Ten years prior to the Bathurst 1000 event operation being taken over by AVESCO in 1996, AAS had also supplied the same service to the previous organisers. Since the creation of AVESCO in 1996 AAS continued to successfully manage the air operations during the annual Bathurst event with a safety record recognised as second to none. AAS always had strong and mutually beneficial relationships with event sponsors, teams, organisers, corporate clients and other stakeholders including the townspeople of Bathurst.
The decision by AVESCO to cancel what had, by all accounts, been a successful relationship for all parties during the 10 years of AVESCO Bathurst 1000 management raises more questions than answers. This surprise cancellation is even more pertinent now when taking into account what happened at Bathurst this year with regards to the complete lack of cohesion and poor service that the current official helicopter operator provided.
Craig Gore and Motorsport
His father Mike was a motor racer however Craig professes no passion for the sport: "No. I like going fast in a car and I've had sex in a car a few times," he cheerfully admits.
The fact that Craig is currently number 7 in the Business Review Weekly ( http://www.brw.com.au/ ) Young Rich List (containing people 40 years of age and younger) is in direct contradiction to an article about Craig contained in the October 2007 edition of Inside Sport magazine. Please follow this link to read the article: http://www.wpsracing.net.au/pdfs/inside_sport.pdf . Here Craig confesses he “raced in the late 1960’s”. How is this possible when in 1969 he would have been two years old?
In 2004 Craig formed a two-car team to compete in the V8 Supercar Championship Series by purchasing all the available equipment from Bob Forbes' old 00 Gibson Motor Sport team. These chassis are still in use today under the WPS Racing banner (one in WPS Racing livery and one in WOW Sight and Sound livery) and are the oldest in the AVESCO field as Ford Australia have refused to supply WPS with updated equipment and technology.
This is a unique situation within this formula of motor sport and a publicly acknowledged frustration of Craig’s with banners displayed on the two WPS Racing entries windscreens of “No money from Ford” in late 2005. Craig and WPS Racing were asked to remove them or face the team being fined and kicked out of the series.
One fine that was enforced by the Confederation of Australian Motorsport (CAMS) on WPS Racing occurred in July 2007. It related to Craig’s public support for Tony Cochrane over John Hewson, the former Liberal Party leader, who was rumoured to be challenging Tony for the chairmanship of AVESCO. People linked to WPS Racing distributed tee shirts sporting the message “Hewson stay out of our Sport”. For the offence of “bringing the sport into disrepute” under CAMS Rule B6.5.4 the WPS Racing Team Manager admitted the offence and they were subsequently fined $25,000. As it happens John Hewson is already involved in “our Sport”, he is the current chairman of TEGA.
This is not the first time that Craig has interfered with the ongoing operations of V8 Supercars. In March 2007 Craig called for prominent V8 driver and team owner Mark Skaife to resign as a TEGA director as there was an issue of whether or not Mark was the sole owner of the Holden Racing Team (HRT).
Craig blasted Mark for wasting time, saying, “It should take no more than 24 hours to prove you own something. It's not hard to prove the contractual purchase or ownership of an asset. I think it's a lot easier to prove ownership of something than a requirement to need 14 days. I can prove I own this team this afternoon.” Bearing in mind that WPS and the Atkinson Gore group are not owned outright and solely by Craig, it is fair to say that unless Craig bought the WPS Racing Team as an individual using funds not from WPS, he is not the sole owner of the WPS Racing Team. Why then is he not called to account for this?
WPS are no longer the Naming Rights Sponsors for the Porsche Carrera Cup ( http://www.cupcar.com.au/ ) and the Aussie Racing Cars ( http://www.aussieracingcars.com.au/ ). Both these race series organisers experienced financial issues due to their association with Craig and WPS. The Carrera Cup Australia organisation eventually wrote off $150,000 contracted to be received by them from WPS in return for their series’ naming rights. Aussie Racing Cars are in a similar situation, with the difference being that they have instituted court proceedings against WPS to recover the $130,000 owed to them also.
These facts directly contradict what is currently displayed on the WPS Racing website at the following URL:
( http://www.wpsracing.net.au/au_business.asp ). It still states the following, “Here in Australia we’re supporting the Aussie Racers, the Porsche Carrera Cup and we have the sponsorship of the winner of that Championship that goes to European GT3 and of course the WPS Racing V8 Supercar franchise.” Only one out of these four sponsorships still exists today (V8 Supercars).
Another group of people in motorsport who have run afoul of Craig are various members of the racing drivers’ fraternity. This long list (considering how long the team has been around for) of former drivers for WPS Racing include David Besnard (part of the team that placed second at Bathurst 2007), Alex Yoong (owner and driver of the current A1GP Malaysia team), Craig Baird, Marcus Marshall, Mark Noske, Owen Kelly and John McIntyre.
Craig Gore and legal proceedings
In 2004 Mr John Sterling, an ailing senior citizen over 70 years of age from Melbourne, Victoria, filed a writ in the Victorian Supreme Court against Craig, his business partner John Atkinson and several of their associated companies. Mr Sterling alleged that both Craig and John guaranteed at least a $5 million profit within seven years from the ill-fated Aurora development that was scrapped in 2003. Aurora was a planned childfree project on Hope Island in the Gold Coast.
Mr Sterling maintains he invested $1 million in mid-2000. Based on the advice provided by John Atkinson (whose services he had retained four years prior), Mr Sterling believed the development was a secured and risk-free scheme.
The statement of claim says that Mr Sterling was not aware of the following. During the period John Atkinson provided him with this advice, he was also a director and secretary of both Aurora Developments Pty Ltd and the Atkinson Gore Group Pty Ltd. Mr Sterling also alleges that he was told by Craig Gore and John Atkinson that capital invested in the project was secure. Investors would hold title to the land on Hope Island and there was no risk that any of the capital would be lost. In actual fact, the writ says, investors held no actual title to the land and there was no guarantee of any profit whatsoever.
Mr Sterling was seeking unspecified damages from each and every defendant. This includes damages from John Atkinson for alleged breach of contract, negligence and breach of fiduciary duty. Mr Sterling also alleges breaches of the Trade Practices Act, the Australian Securities & Investments Commission Act, Corporations law and the Pair Trading Act.
Craig Gore and John Atkinson subsequently released a joint statement saying Mr Sterling would be paid in accordance with the original investment terms and denounced the legal action as "reckless and premature", rejecting all other allegations in the writ.
Mr Sterling’s legal representative Eugene Arocca, at the time a senior partner with Melbourne law firm Maurice Blackburn Cashman, said he had tried in vain to resolve the matter for Mr Sterling since September 2003. Mr Arocca said at the time "Mr Sterling is seeking the promised return on his investment in the Aurora development and has been forced to take legal action to achieve this.”
The Aurora development was envisaged by Craig an adults-only community of about 1200 homes on Hope Island with an end value of approximately $700 million. Craig dumped this project in October 2003 when he sold the 31hectare property for $90 million to Australand Holdings, a rival property developer.
In April 2007 the Queensland Planning and Environment Court rejected Craig’s application asking for permission allowing him to fly his personal helicopter on an unlimited basis to and from his Wongawallan property. Craig said he would appeal the decision and had already taken the Gold Coast City Council to court at the end of last year after it restricted his fly-ins at his Kriedeman Rd address to 56 times a year.
The council said the fly-ins were still an inappropriate use of the land and Mr Gore was forced to stop flying in April 2005, a month before he launched a development application requesting 120 fly-ins per year. In June 2006, the council instead decided to allow him to fly in 56 times a year. The council also said that using his land to launch and land the helicopter conflicted with the local planning scheme but that he was permitted to fly up to four times a month, plus an additional eight times a year.
This decision followed numerous complaints from neighbours on surrounding rural properties about the noise and possible harm to horses and riders if spooked by helicopter take-offs and landings. Craig then simultaneously launched an appeal of the council's decision and his wife, Thaya Morgan-Phoenix, the owner of the land, applied for a court ruling.
Craig Gore and Wright Patton Shakespeare (WPS) Capital Limited
We now come to the final and quite possibly the most concerning and disturbing development in the Craig Gore saga. We say this because it is this single issue that has the most potential to do real damage to potential Mum and Dad investors, in a similar and almost identical fashion to the ACR collapse of 2007. WPS Capital Limited ( http://www.wpscapital.net.au/ ) offers and manages an investment product known as the Wright Patton Shakespeare No. 2 Mortgage Fund.
This product initially appears to be a quite attractive one and the following information is contained in the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS). It has no entry or exit fees (when investments are held until maturity), flexible terms with four investment term options (one of which is called the Access Account; basically a month to month investment) and high rates of interest (8.25% to 10% depending on the term). It is here that things start to become interesting. The fine print below these rates states that they are actually averages of rates paid to investors since 1st January 2007. They are not a forecast and depend on the capacity of the Fund to meet distributions (monthly payments to investors). The interest distributions are currently being supported by contributions from the Fund Manager (WPS Capital Ltd).
This actually means that the current investments (assets) of the Fund are not delivering enough of a return by themselves to pay the interest and in effect the Fund is going backwards. They are counting on the developments being successful in order to pay investors a return. The pool of assets backing the fund primarily consists of commercial loans secured by registered first mortgages over real property, investments made by the Fund in other registered mortgage schemes and cash.
Of the three loans made to date by the Fund all are to companies controlled and operated by Craig. It is true that the PDS is up front about this fact and this information is easy to find. What is not so apparent is that a property valuation (the dollar basis of the first mortgage security amount for a loan) can be based on the value of the completed project, and not what it is really worth today.
It works like this. A piece of property that is available for a purchase price of $5 million, with an assessed valuation of the completed project assessed as being $10 million means that up to $8 million (80% loan to value ratio) can be lent by the Fund. Even though in today’s terms the land is actually only worth $5 million, the borrower (Craig’s companies) is able to access an additional $3 million over and above the actual value today. This type of lending practice is highly speculative and not as secure as it first seems, namely being backed by first mortgage security over real assets (property). The Fund Manager themselves selects the panel of valuers who assess the actual (speculative) value of the security in question.
The Manager also has the authority to borrow against the assets of the Fund. If this occurs the financier of any loans to the Fund has access to the Fund assets in priority to Fund investors.
Should the liquidity of the Fund be threatened and/or if the Manager identifies any event that in their judgement may be detrimental to Fund investors, the withdrawal period (how long it takes for an investor to receive their money back) can be extended to 360 days.
In addition to all this there are actually fees associated with the Fund (a Management fee and an Expenses fee, both each estimated to be 2.5% of the gross asset value of the Fund). They are not charged directly to investors but are deducted from the fund before distributions are paid.
Page 24 of the PDS states the following with respect to Management Costs: “These costs are for amounts that can only be estimated. These costs encompass all of the income of the Fund that exceeds the minimum rates of return and is calculated as the difference between all Fund income (less Fund expenses) and the Distribution rate of return paid by the Fund to investors. It is not deducted directly from an investors investment balance”. It should be clear now how much is charged by the Manager (clear as mud).
The Manager has also put in place what is referred to as the Negative Fee Arrangement. This means that in the event that there is insufficient money available to meet the current distribution rates and Fund expenses, the Manager must contribute its own funds up to a maximum of $275,000. The PDS points out however that this is not a capital guarantee and this requirement can be waived if the Fund unit price falls below $1. The Fund Manager of course also sets this unit price themselves. A copy of the Unit Pricing Policy can be obtained from the Fund Manager by making a separate request (free of charge, how generous) for this documentation.
The single main difference between this Fund and the investment product offered by ACR is that ACR did not have a month to month style offering (the so-called WPS Access Account). Apart from that the are virtually identical. Both offered high rates of return with pooled money in the funds being lent for speculative property development and secured by first mortgages over real property. This certainly worked out all right for ACR investors, not!
Craig Gore miscellaneous and summary
Many different people who have had dealings with Craig have described him as being a bully, somebody who turned to verbal abuse and offensive language when things were not going his way, coarse, pugnacious, aggressive and possessing a distinct lack of diplomacy. When asked for his views on Craig by Inside Sport, Larry Perkins, one of the most respected and professional V8 operators, said “I can’t think of anything that’s not defamatory. Look, Gore’s done me no harm but I’m not a fan of his style”.
Craig himself says he is a combative guy and comes out swinging so at least he has no misconceptions regarding his demeanour and what other people think of him does not bother him. What bothers us though is the fact that somebody like Craig is out there on the world stage as a self confessed and appointed representative of Australian Motorsport via his co-ownership of the Team Australia CHAMP car Racing Team. Sadly our reputation and perception among many other countries as a bunch of beer swilling yobbos is bad enough, without someone as offensive like Craig Gore adding to it.
It is also of great concern to us that Craig eagerly seeks to have ordinary families trust him and his myriad of companies. He wants them to believe what he says about WPS understanding the stresses of managing a household and running a family. If every family conducted themselves in the manner with which Craig does, then the divorce rate in this country would be at least double what it is today, with all the broken dreams and aspirations that this would entail.
Hopefully we have given you the reader some food for thought concerning Craig Gore, WPS and the many other interests that he is involved in. If we succeed in preventing just one person from suffering at the hands of Craig Gore then our investigation and subsequent findings have not been in vain.
Lead Journalist and Editor in Chief
The Gore Files