Can Adam Afriyie - the 'Tory Obama' - file his accounts on time? No he can’t

Adam Afriyie was said to be worth £50m. But was it the audacity of hype?

Click to follow
Indy Politics

He’s a high-flying MP whose rags-to-riches life story and speedy political rise led to his being dubbed the “Tory Obama”.

But Adam Afriyie, the Windsor MP who came to the public’s attention after being touted as a potential challenger to David Cameron for the Tory leadership last year, appears to be finding it tricky to juggle his parliamentary and financial workloads.

In 2009, an aide to Mr Afriyie told a magazine that had estimated his wealth at £13m that he was in fact worth “somewhere between £50m and £100m”. However, inquiries by this newspaper into Mr Afriyie’s businesses show:

  • One of his companies filed its accounts several months late for a second year running – triggering automatic fines from Companies House.

  • Another has seen its sales and underlying profits fall in recent years.
  • Last month he took out new loans with non-standard lenders against both his multi-million pound properties – for the second year running.

Mr Afriyie, 49, made his money in IT and marketing companies, most famously profiting from the insatiable need of companies to find new content for their websites to keep them high up on Google searches. He is said to have made millions from Adfero, a business known as a “word farm” which employed young writers to churn out hundreds of online news stories a day for its corporate clients.

Now Mr Afriye’s biggest business is known as Axonn Media (formerly Adfero Ltd) and operates from the same address.

Axonn’s underlying operating profits fell from £1.4m in 2012 to £529,165 last year. Turnover also appears to be down when tracked further back, coming in at £9.4m in 2011 compared with £7.6m last year. However, Axonn still paid a dividend for 2013, which suggests the 57 per cent shareholder Mr Afriyie’s take was a healthy £265,503.

 

Axonn said it was currently “making the transition from an online news provider to a full service content marketing agency”. It said these changes required increased investment, adding “naturally, these will be reflected in the financial results”.

At another of his remaining businesses, Connect Support Services Limited, where he is listed as chairman and the major shareholder, the accounts are overdue for the second year running, meaning the business will face a doubling of the automatic fine.

Failure to file annual accounts can technically become a criminal offence if the company fails to respond to reminders from Companies House. While prosecutions are rare, being late filing should be a concern to directors.

Despite being a director and chairman of the companies, Mr Afriyie referred questions to the companies themselves.  His office issued a statement saying: “Mr Afriyie has been MP for Windsor since 2005 and focuses his time on serving his constituents and his duties in Parliament. He has investments in the UK, US, Australia and elsewhere which are properly declared in the register of members’ interests and is not involved in the day-to-day operations of these businesses.” His office also pointed out that he does not claim MPs’ personal or housing expenses. Publicly available accounts for his US and Australian companies do not disclose financial details.

Mr Afriyie lives in a large former monastery with extensive grounds in his constituency in Windsor for which he paid £4m in 2008 with a mortgage from Clydesdale. He also owns a reputed 10-bedroom house a minute’s walk from Westminster which he bought for £7.25m in 2005 with a Barclays mortgage.

But public records show that last month a specialist lender called Lancashire Mortgage Corporation took a charge on both properties – suggesting he borrowed money using them as collateral. The previous year charges were registered on both by Charles Street Commercial Investments, which has the same directors as Lancashire.

Mr Afriye once told the London Evening Standard: “I grew up in poverty in social housing in Peckham surrounded by some of the most violent estates in London.” He said his mother was English, his father Ghanaian, although he didn’t know him until he was older. “I knew what it was to go hungry,” he said.