THE PEOPLE behind the Venus Awards, which went into liquidation owing more than £16,000 to BH Live, should ‘morally’ pay back the money they owe, a Bournemouth councillor says.

Anne Filer, who is cabinet member for corporate efficiency, praised the Venus Awards – which went into liquidation owing more than £100,000, including more than £70,00 to HMRC – for ‘promoting the achievements of women’.

However, she slammed founder Tara Howard for her ‘glee’ in saying she was ‘ecstatic’ at the process of buying the business out of liquidation. The company has been identified as being worth £5,000 for its ‘goodwill’.

“It’s a shame because they promoted the achievements of women but what is wrong is this glee that it’s going to start up again when all that money is owed to the public,” said Mrs Filer. “BH Live is owned by all of us and so is the money owed to the revenue and just because it’s not a little person or an individual who is losing out doesn’t make it any more moral.”

The Venus Awards Ltd quietly changed its name to a number in the summer and then went into liquidation. As a limited company the owner, Tara Howard, is not legally responsible for its debts and nor is it unlawful to change the name of a company before administration.

It is also not against the law for her and her husband, David Frankel, to buy the business out of administration.

The Venus Awards’ website claims the company is working with a number of ‘partners’ including The Goring – the 5* London hotel from which Kate Middleton and her family departed for her wedding to Prince William.

It says its other partners include Mercedes Benz of Poole, Dutton Gregory Solicitors, Bournemouth University and the Waldorf Hotel in London, where another award ceremony is due to take place on Monday. Tickets for this event are priced at £195, exclusive of VAT and a £13 booking fee, making just one ticket for the ceremony and dinner £249.80. A table for 10 would set guests back more than £2,200.

'You're trying to get as much as you can for the assets'

IT can infuriate creditors when a failed business is reborn without any obligation to pay off its old debt. That's particularly the case when the new owners are the people who were in charge when it ran into trouble.

But Julie Palmer, regional managing partner for professional services and insolvency firm Begbies Traynor, said selling a business to its previous management team can make sense.

“When a liquidator is appointed, it’s the liquidator’s duty to try and raise as much as possible for the assets of the business, but often the best offer from the business is from the existing management team,” she said.

“It’s not always the case and anybody else has the opportunity to make an offer.

“Quite often the existing management team understands the business and have the inside track on how to make the business work if they’re freed of liability.

“As a liquidator you’re trying to get as much as possible for the assets. If that’s the existing management team, that’s often the one you will go with.”

But Ms Palmer points out that there is no way of satisfying all creditors – otherwise the business would not have been in trouble in the first place.

“It’s unfortunate that it’s often the unsecured creditors who quite often miss out,” she said.

“If you didn’t have that arrangement and secured creditors had no prior ranking in terms of security, it would make lenders even less ready to lend to business.”

As for the idea that the liquidation process offers a handy way for bosses to continue in business while leaving a trail of debt, she points out that liquidators have to submit a report on directors’ conduct and report any concerns to the secretary of state. “If there’s anything untoward they can order disqualification procedure,” she added.