Vertu Motors has been the victim of a ‘malicious’ act that saw its Companies House records changed to say some directors had resigned and two others appointed – one apparently called ‘Mr Ice Crystal Augustus’.
Its public record on the website was wrongly altered by what Vertu has called ‘a malicious actor’.
The amendments state that several of the directors had resigned and two new ones appointed.
However, Vertu said this morning that the records were ‘falsely amended by a malicious actor’, adding that none of the changes had legally occurred and the board of directors was unchanged.
It is currently liaising with Companies House to have it all corrected and is seeking a court injunction to stop any further changes being made.
Vertu added that it was working with Companies House to find out how the person was able to access its systems to make the alterations.
In a statement today, Companies House told Car Dealer: ‘We are aware of this case and are working with the company to ascertain the facts.
‘Deliberately filing false information on the register is a serious offence and people who have been found to have knowingly done this can face prosecution.
‘A person found guilty could face a fine or up to two years’ imprisonment (or both).’
Companies House subsequently sent Car Dealer an updated statement on November 2, in which it said early investigations hadn’t found any problems with its systems.
It stated: ‘Our preliminary findings have identified no issues with Companies House systems in relation to this matter and we will continue to work with the company to resolve it.
‘We will continue to investigate and take appropriate action if there is evidence that an offence has been committed.
‘The new Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act, which achieved Royal Assent last week, will significantly enhance the role and powers of the Registrar of Companies.
‘The Act will enable us to query, reject and, in some cases, remove information that seems incorrect or inconsistent with information already on the register.’
The news came on the heels of Vertu buying new and used car dealership group Rowes Garage in a £6.2m deal to expand its presence in the south-west of England.
The acquisition – announced this morning via the London Stock Exchange and funded by existing cash resources – will see Honda specialist Rowes’ four sales outlets in Plymouth, Plymstock and Truro now operate under the Vertu and Bristol Street Motors banners.
Meanwhile, Rowes’ Suzuki franchised outlet in Plymouth will be run as a used car outlet and Suzuki authorised repairer and will eventually be refranchised.
The deal follows Vertu’s acquisition of Helston Garages in the south-west in December 2022 and takes its number of outlets in the region to 34.
It expands Vertu’s relationship with Honda to 17 outlets – Vertu was already Honda’s largest UK retail partner – and is the first time Vertu has operated in Plymouth.
According to Rowes’ website, it also has a Honda dealership in Hayle and a used car and servicing site in Dobwalls, both in Cornwall, but no reference was made to them in the announcement. Car Dealer has approached Vertu for clarification about them.
Rowes has been in business for more than 90 years, becoming one of the most successful Honda dealer businesses in the UK. For the year ended December 31, 2022, it recorded revenue of £30.2m and an operating profit of £745,000.
However, Vertu said that the seasonality of vehicle sales meant the Rowes arm was expected to make a loss for the remaining four months of the financial year to February 29 but should turn a profit in its first full year of ownership.
Robert Forrester, CEO of Vertu Motors, said: ‘I am delighted to deliver further expansion for the group in the south-west of England following the successful and accretive Helston acquisition.
‘The long-standing successful Rowes business is a great addition to the group’s 14 existing Honda sales outlets and increases scale further in the south-west, where we will operate 34 outlets.
‘We continue to execute our strategy to build a scaled business.’
This story was originally published at 9.22am on November 1, 2023 and updated at 1.12pm the same day with the statement from Companies House. It was further updated at 3.16pm on November 2 with another statement from Companies House.