PMB event man skips with cash

2009-07-11 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG impresario Chris Hodgkins has apparently left the country for Abu Dhabi, taking with him the proceeds of last month’s Concert in the Park and leaving behind R130 000 worth of debt for his business partners to pick up.

One of Hodgkins’s two business partners — broker Mike Woollam, who held a 15% membership in HMW Events, but did not draw a salary — told Weekend Witness yesterday that he has ascertained that Hodgkins left for London on Monday night.

According to Woollam, who said it will take “weeks” to figure out how much money is missing, Hodgkins left only R500 in the HMW (Hodgkins, Muir & Woollam) Events business account.

An amount estimated to be R260 000 — proceeds from tickets sold at last month’s fifth annual Concert in the Park — is believed to be sitting in Hodgkins’s private account. Woollam said that in the past 60 days, bank statements show Hodgkins also transferred R126 000 from the business account to his private account. According to Woollam, that amount, even over two months, would have been in excess of Hodgkins’s monthly salary of R40 000.

Woollam said the close corporation owes creditors about R130 000 in connection with costs involved in holding the Concert in the Park on June 21. These include fees owing to performers such as vocalist Tim Moloi, tenor Janie Moolman, cellist Boris Kerimov and the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra.

Woollam said he had already settled the majority of these debts out of his own pocket and was to pay the balance yesterday.

“I have strong views on integrity in business. I will not let anyone say they lost money through anything I am involved in,” he told Weekend Witness yesterday. “I’m angry, but it could have been worse.”

Woollam added that about R1 000 is missing in connection with the sale of tickets by Hodgkins ahead of the Welsh Male Voice Choir of South Africa concert on Saturday, which is to be hosted by the Azalea Rotary Club.

However, he said the event will go ahead, unaffected by recent events.

The last time Woollam saw Hodgkins was last week. At that time, Woollam said he expressed his unhappiness with Hodgkins’s failure to produce any books of account or financial statements for the CC, and that the business cheque book was still carrying the name of Hodgkins’s previous company — Chris Hodgkins Music & Entertainment.

Woollam and Hodgkins had arranged to meet on Thursday to discuss Woollam’s concerns.

However, on Tuesday, Woollam received an e-mail from Hodgkins (sent close to midnight the previous night) containing about 40 pages of business-related information and records.

Around lunchtime on the same day, Woollam said he received another e-mail from Hodgkins, which Woollam now believes was sent from London, saying the business couldn’t handle the burden of two people with “high” salaries. Hodgkins and Muir both held a 42,5% membership stake in the close corporation and drew monthly salaries.

Hodgkins announced in the e-mail that he had decided to resign and would be in Abu Dhabi on Thursday to take up a job that had been “frequently” offered to him by the UAE government in the area of sports and recreation.

After taking legal advice, Woollam said he and the remaining partner, Alasdair Muir, had already applied for the close corporation to be deregistered.

Woollam also said that Hodgkins had, without consulting or informing him, moved the HMW business premises from Liberty Midlands Mall to Victoria Square, claiming there had been a “row” between him and Pietermaritzburg Tourism, with whom he shared office space.

Director of Pietermaritzburg Tourism, Melanie Veness, yesterday would say only that Hodgkins and her organisation had “decided to part ways”.

According to Woollam, Hodgkins took the lease for the new premises in his own name and gave his address as that of his ex-wife.

Woollam said the business partners will be pursuing fraud charges against Hodgkins.

Calls to Hodgkins’s cellphone on Thursday went straight to voicemail.

In a joint statement on Thursday, Hodgkins’s ex-wife Karren Hodgkins and daughter Kelly said they were not involved in the business and as such could not comment on the financial situation.

“Nor do we have contact with Chris at the moment,” they said.

 

CHRIS Hodgkins may be out of the picture, but concerts in Pietermaritzburg will go ahead, including the All Time Top Classics concert due to take place in the city hall on July 23.

Both of Hodgkins’s business partners, Mike Woollam and Alasdair Muir, confirmed yesterday that the concert will go ahead and will be “completely unaffected” by Hodgkins’s departure.

“Nobody will lose any money out of this,” said Woollam. “It will go ahead exactly as planned and will be a wonderful concert.”

In a statement to the Weekend Witness this week, Muir said he and Woollam are “committed to continuing to provide the Pietermaritzburg public with the high standard of entertainment they have become accustomed to”.

Muir has over 20 years’ experience in the orchestral music industry and 10 years’ experience in event organising.

Before joining forces with Hodgkins and Woollam, he was orchestra manager for the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra for seven years.

He said he and Woollam will maintain the momentum built up in the city over the years.

The concert on July 23 is “just the first of many more great events and concerts to come”, he said.

PMB Tourism director Melanie Veness added her assurances that roleplayers in past events, and those involved from the start, have committed themselves to a continuation of the kind of events that Hodgkins organised.

Hodgkins announced in the e-mail that he had decided to resign and would be in Abu Dhabi on Thursday [this week] to take up a job that had been ‘frequently’ offered to him by the UAE government in the area of sports and recreation.

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