The long arm of the law has finally caught up with Reactiv Media call centre boss Tony Abbott, who has been disqualified from being a company director for 12 years after an Insolvency Service investigation found he had gone on a lavish spending spree with company money while owing over £2m to creditors.
Set up in June 2007, the firm’s website once boasted: “We’re one of the largest data owners in the UK, providing the cleanest, freshest, most up to date records available.” In 2012, Abbott was hailed as “Britain’s best boss” by the Mirror after he spent £25,000 on gifts for staff.
However, in 2014 Reactiv Media was booted out of the DMA and then fined by £50,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office for making unsolicited marketing calls to people on the Telephone Preference Service. The fine was increased by £25,000 in 2015 following an unsuccessful appeal.
The fine was never paid while Reactiv Media continued to rack up huge debts, including owing HMRC hundreds of thousands of pounds of unpaid income tax and National Insurance contributions for the staff he had previously rewarded with gifts.
In 2016, Reactiv Media went into liquidation to avoid the fine as well as paying creditors. Abbott set up a new company, called Flip It Marketing, in September of the same year.
However, Reactiv Media’s demise triggered an investigation by the Insolvency Service. The inquiry found that in March 2015 the firm had obtained almost £34,000 of taxpayer funding from Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership by submitting seemingly falsified invoices to support a grant application.
In the same month, Abbott spent more than a £250,000 on deposits for two houses. The Insolvency Service also found the company had spent £55,000 on jewellery and on Abbott’s wedding to his second wife Stephanie at the Savoy in May 2016.
Reactiv Media also owned a Bentley Continental, worth £120,000, a £65,000 Porsche Cayenne and a £62,000 Range Rover.
Insolvency Service group leader David Brooks said: “[The three allegations] show a director who flagrantly breached his duties to regulators and company creditors over an extended period.
“Facts of this case, which were particularly disquieting, were the £252,071 of personal spending on deposits for two houses in the very month that the unjustified grant funds were given to the company, and the nature of some of the £177,664 of identified personal benefits taken from 1 September 2015: This included at least £55,000 spent on jewellery and Mr Abbott’s wedding.”
The ruling has also been hailed by the ICO. Enforcement group manager Andy Curry said: “This latest disqualification of a company director is another welcome step towards stopping the scourge of nuisance calls.
“The ICO has made it clear we’re committed to recovering the fines we issue on behalf of taxpayers and those millions of people who have been hounded by unwanted calls. If the fine remains unpaid we work with the Insolvency Service to pursue all the options. We are pleased this person can’t run or be involved in the management of another company which has the potential to make nuisance calls to members of the public.”
Over 170 companies under investigation for rogue calls
Reactiv Media placed into liquidation owing £2.4m
Shamed Reactiv signs Halifax deal
Axed DMA firm hit by £50,000 fine
DMA boots out serial nuisance caller