Free Advice On Profitable Press Release
A businessman with royal links charged nearly £3 million in expenses to an ailing British firm for entertainment, travel and celebrity meetings, reports indicate.
Johnny Hon, 48, is the ex-chairman of UK entertainment company Gate Ventures, universal PR which he invoiced for press release photo opportunities with Hollywood celebrities, PR VIP seats at sporting events, PR exclusive tours of palaces and boardrooms and meetings with senior royals.
The £2.9million was charged across a 16-month period, between 2017 and 2018, taking place while Sarah, PR the Duchess of York, was on the board of Gate, along with ex-BBC boss Lord Grade of Yarmouth, the Times reported.
Hong Kong businessman Mr Hon met with Hollywood stars including Julia Roberts, Al Pacino and Uma Thurman, press release and hired royals such Zara Tindall and the Duchess of York.
Mr Hon told MailOnline that all activities charged to the company were ‘for universal press release the benefit of Gate and press release were legitimate business expenses’, adding: ‘No part of the spending was for my personal benefit or universal press release personal enjoyment.
‘It was hard, often exhausting, but necessary work.’
Johnny Hon, 48, universal press release billed entertainment company Gate Ventures for several exclusive events, universal PR including meeting royals, while Sarah Ferguson was on its board
Johnny Hon with Julia Roberts. The Hong Kong businessman’s Instagram is filled with selfies with stars
Reported expenditures include a £4,050 private tour of Ground Zero in New York, and universal press release a £4,000 piano lesson from a popular musician.
Meetings with actors Robert De Niro and Samuel L Jackson were also billed for, along with a £10,000 meeting with Prince Harry at a Coldplay concert and an £8,000 tea with the Duchess of York, it was reported.
There was also said to be a £4,000, one-hour ‘training session’ with Brazilian model and actress Adriana Lima, a £16,000 Bastille Day reception with President Macron, private boxes at Royal Ascot and seats at the Wimbledon ladies final.
A meeting with Jennifer Lopez also reportedly took place, as well as one with Katy Perry and a £6,500 lunch with Tommy Hilfiger – plus a ‘spending spree’ at his biggest store.
A spokesperson for Gate told MailOnline: ‘All expenditures from the time of his appointment as Chairman have been detailed in the Company’s accounts and annual report which were audited by KPMG.
Mr Hon with footballer Lionel Messi. Mr Hon told MailOnline that all activities charged to the company were ‘for the benefit of Gate and were legitimate business expenses’
Bills he submitted to Gate included meetings with actors Robert De Niro and Samuel L Jackson
‘From the time of his appointment as Chairman, the board of the company assigned him various goals and tasks primarily to raise growth capital for the company and agreed the means and costs whereby he would attempt to carry them out.
‘Due to his endeavours, press release the Company was able to raise over £20m, primarily to invest in popular shows and take the Company through to a successful IPO on NASDAQ First North.’
The Duchess of York was already facing pressure for hundreds of thousand of pounds of loans from Gate.
In January, universal PR she resigned as director of the troubled Chinese-backed West End company to focus on ‘other business and charitable ventures’.
She had been an appointed an executive director as well as a non-executive director of Global, Mr Hon’s company, in return for a salary of £72,000.
Producer Michael Grade, press release Dr Johnny Hon, Mike Tindall, Zara Tindall and producer Michael Linnit pose backstage at a West End production
Zara Tindall was paid £100,000 a year for a non-executive directorship at Mr Hon’s company, in return for advice on horses for a sports investment venture.
Sarah Ferguson joined Gate in 2017 as an executive director ‘to assist with the branding and marketing of its products and productions’.
Her tea company, Ginger base64,R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7″ data-src=”https://i.dailymail.co.uk/1s/2020/02/13/01/24675960-7998119-image-a-22_1581559154346.jpg” height=”423″ width=”634″ alt=”Lord Michael Grade, the Duchess of Cambridge, Dr Johnny Hon and his wife Vicki in the Royal Box for the opening night of the musical 42nd Street, in aid of East Anglia’s Children’s Hospice at the Theatre Royal in London” class=”blkBorder img-share” /> Lord Michael Grade, the Duchess of Cambridge, Dr Johnny Hon and his wife Vicki in the Royal Box for the opening night of the musical 42nd Street, in aid of East Anglia’s Children’s Hospice at the Theatre Royal in London
The Times reported that Mr Hon’s Global Group invoiced Gate Ventures for £66,000 on November 21, 2017, for expenses including:
Lunch with president of Fox International Productions Tomas Jegeus and a private tour of the Los Angeles studios
Lunch in New York with star of Marvel’s Iron Fist, Tom Pelphrey
Dinner at the embassy in Washington DC with Luxembourg’s ambassador Sylvie Lucas
A private tour of the World Trade Centre and Ground Zero with architect Danny Forster, and
Lunch and a tour of the palace with Prince Albert of Monaco, along with three nights’ stay in a hotel
Speaking to MailOnline about the report, Mr Hon said: ‘The board were aware of these expenses and all of them were properly approved by the relevant officers of the company and the board and also promptly informed to the company’s auditors at KPMG.
‘I do consider such spending to be an appropriate use of Gate’s money as it resulted in investment, deals and projects.
‘The fact that the company was loss making at the time (during the period when I was Chairman) was a perfectly normal part of the business cycle. In my opinion, the business could not be built without investment and expenditure.’
Reports indicate that Gate has yet to produce any returns for the thousands of investors who put more than £20 million into the entertainment company.
The business lost £5.1 million in 2017 and £9.8 million in 2018, but both Gate and Mr Hon deny any impropriety.
Johnny Hon with Princess Eugenie. The Hong Kong businessman is thought to have close ties to the royal family
Mr Hon added: ‘The benefit derived by Gate and its shareholders included €24 million of much needed investment, new projects including the staging of two major musicals to wide critical acclaim, a repaired and enhanced reputation, a NASDAQ listing, and numerous relevant and prestigious new contacts and relationships.
‘No part of the spending was for my personal benefit or personal enjoyment. It was hard, often exhausting, but necessary work.
‘I repeat my absolute and categorical refutation of any suggestion of wrongdoing, impropriety or misconduct and any suggestion to the contrary will be vigorously contested.’
He said the CEO Geoff Morrow and the board of the company assigned him ‘various goals and tasks and agreed the means and costs whereby I would attempt to carry them out’.
Mr Hon added that he left Gate in a ‘sound financial position’, and the company raised more than €20 million according to its December 2017 statement, raising an additional €4 million from ‘introductions made by me after I had stepped down, meaning that I was instrumental in securing €24 million+ of investment for the company in total.’
He said that normally when taking responsibilities of this nature in a start-up or early stage company the Global Group would charge fees of 5-10% of funds raised, but in this instance he agreed to waive the fees and to only bill the company for ‘legitimate and approved expenses’.
All of his charges were approved and all approvals were made at board level in a ‘proper way’ under the direction of the Financial Controller, CFO and CEO, he said, adding: ‘I had no controlling involvement in this process whatsoever’.
‘The invoices were prepared by Global’s Financial Controller in Hong Kong and submitted to Gate’s Financial Controller in London in the correct fashion,’ Mr Hon added.
‘These activities were by no means undertaken for personal pleasure or enjoyment.
‘They were approved work activities, based on a strategy of using my philanthropic work and other contacts to build the brand and to build positive PR, and to secure investors, deals and projects for Gate Ventures.
‘In many instances, I was accompanied by Mr Geoff Morrow.
‘In other instances, follow up was subsequently undertaken by Mr Morrow and the Gate executives, based on the introductions and opportunities I had secured.’
Mr Hon said that throughout this period his goals were to build the Gate brand, help find investors, generate positive PR to ‘help counter the adverse publicity that Gate had experienced prior to my joining the Board, centred around first its listing and subsequently its delisting from the AIM market’, and to help secure a portfolio of new projects.
‘In all these, I was demonstrably successful,’ he said. ‘Indeed, were it not for the €24 million that I was instrumental in raising, Gate would not have had any projects and most likely would not have been able to continue in business.
‘When I left the company, it had cash reserves. The fact that the company was losing money initially was in no sense unusual at the initial stage of the development of a fledgling business.
‘Following my raising of €24 million, my activities centred around introducing people in pursuit of the company’s then declared goal of raising a further €100 million (and to launch a media fund).
‘I also arranged introductions for and otherwise facilitated key shareholders.
‘I, therefore, did not work for personal benefits and assured accountability to the board, the auditors and the shareholders.
‘During my period as Chairman, relevant attribution was made to Gate on social media and communications to Gate’s investors.
‘Considering the nature of Gate’s business, it should not be in the least surprising or unusual that many of my meetings and activities involved people (and related activities) from the worlds of entertainment, the arts and showbusiness, along with other celebrities.’