Hodgson gives company away

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The Independent Online
HOWARD HODGSON, the former funeral parlour king who called his autobiography How To Become Dead Rich, has given away his controversial Prontac franchising venture, which collapsed last week, to the franchisees.

Mr Hodgson said that he had bought Prontac, a computerised accounting venture, from the receivers appointed last week to Hodgson Securities, the company that ran Prontac. Mr Hodgson said he then gave Prontac to a group of franchisees as a gift.

The deal, though, was news to the receivers. They were yesterday trying to get in touch with Mr Hodgson. 'It is not his company to give away,' said the joint receiver, Paul Stanley, of the accountants Buchler Phillips.

Receivers were appointed after Mr Hodgson called in his pounds 500,000 loan to the group. Other creditors, mainly the Inland Revenue, are owed a further pounds 250,000.

The collapse has brought angry reactions and threats of legal action from people who paid up to pounds 16,500 to buy franchises.

Mr Hodgson, who resigned as chairman of his funeral parlour business, PFG Hodgson Kenyon, in 1990, tried to organise a buyout of the franchise company, to be led by his 19-year-old son, Howard Hodgson jnr. Although the deal was announced at the weekend, the buyout fell through.

Undeterred, Mr Hodgson told a group of franchisees that he would write off his pounds 500,000 loan to the company and let them buy it out.

Under the deal, an association of franchisees is being given Prontac's client list and software. The associaton is inviting franchisees to join it, and expects about half the 85 Prontac franchisees to sign up.