Key figures alleged to have racked up more than £1m of debt at the troubled Croydon Village Outlet opened the department store following the collapse of a string of other businesses, it has emerged.
Marco Cash – whose real name is Mark Anthony Gorevan-Cash – oversaw the launch and demise of several similar companies before opening the North End store in September with claims it would last 150 years.
Mr Cash and Joanne Morrison are the named directors of Metro Outlet Ltd, the company behind the store that is being pursued for money by dozens of creditors and faces going bust if it cannot pay.
But the Croydon Guardian can reveal a second man, Christopher Anthony, is also a key player in the running of Croydon Village Outlet, despite not being named as a director.
Mr Anthony, who is Ms Morrison’s partner, was successfully prosecuted by Derby City Council in 2010 after the city’s Grade II listed Hippodrome theatre, which he is believed to still own, was partially destroyed by unauthorised building work.
A judge waived Mr Anthony’s obligation to pay the council’s legal bill after it emerged he was on the brink of bankruptcy.
Councillors rejected his application to turn the theatre into a multi-storey car park last year.
When questioned about his role at Croydon Village Outlet this week, Mr Anthony insisted he was “a general dogsbody”.
He said: "I am a nothing in it. I am a nobody in the company. I’m just a general dogsbody and don’t get paid enough for it.”
But one employee, who asked not to be named, said Mr Anthony was “running the show”, while several others confirmed he was managing the store and had been dealing with staff complaints about unpaid wages.
Many of the store’s employees were not paid on time last month, with some still waiting to receive wages this week.
Some staff have held talks with employment arbitrator Acas after being threatened with the sack if they walked out in protest.
Shoppers await the store's opening in September
One employee, who works on the shop floor, said: “The staff are so low it is unbelievable. A lot of them threatened to walk out and were told if they walked out they’d be sacked.
"They don’t know whether to go or whether to stay and try to get their money. They have got them over a barrel.”
A security guard, who quit his job last week after not being paid, said: “These people should not be allowed to operate a business. They do not care about their staff.
"People have got bills to pay. They are hard times out here and we have really nice people who come in day-in, day-out and don't even get paid."
It is understood the store's broken escalators could not be fixed because engineers demanded payment up-front, while most of its security staff have quit.
Several businesses have abandoned their concessions in the store after not receiving money from sales, while many that remain insisted on having their own tills installed.
Mr Anthony denied staff had gone unpaid and claimed the store, which he insisted was not on the brink of going bust, had been “vilified”.
He refused to discuss the company’s financial problems and repeatedly stated only Mr Cash could answer questions.
He said: “There are no problems. Or there are problems, but everyone is getting over the problems and it is not as has been said in the papers.
“It is going to be completely different very shortly. It is not up to me to tell you, let the boss tell you. You will see over the next couple of weeks. Everything will become apparent very shortly.
"It is not my business. I do not hold the purse strings.
“I don’t know how [Marco Cash’s] pockets are, but I know he looks after his staff and I know he pays his staff. This store employs 200 people. There are still happy people in there and they are still getting paid.
"He does lots of good, he has helped lots of staff in times of trouble. It is terrible what has been said, disgusting. A lot of what has been said is not true.
"Every little thing becomes a major incident or a riot. Whatever a disgruntled employee says to you, you take it at face value."
Mr Anthony, who lives in a private road Wimbledon road Ms Morrison, added: "Everyone keeps on saying it's not going to be here next week. Am I concerned it will go out of business? No."
The store's opening in September descended into chaos when tills broke
Debt collection firm Outstanding Results is working to recover more than £500,000 from Metro Outlet Limited for five clients and and has been contacted by five other creditors.
It is understood a second debt recovery company is representing clients owed more than £500,000, with the store's debt thought to stretch well beyond £1m.
On Monday, one unnamed creditor successfully sued Metro Outlet Limited for £9,010 in Northampton County Court.
Martin Brand, director of Outstanding Results, said: "I have never come across anything like it in my life. One of the most spectacular crashes that you will ever see is about to happen.
"I don't know how they even thought they could run a business this way."
Mr Brand plans to this week serve the company with statutory demands that would give it 21 days to settle its debts.
If it fails to reach an agreement with creditors by that deadline, Metro Outlet Limited can be issued with a winding-up petition and its directors could be pursued individually for any personal guarantees.
Mr Cash is listed as a former director of at least seven other companies, including Cyclenet, Suffolk Leisure, Chelsea Leisure, Viscount Menswear and Viscount Retailing.
Several were registered to the same address in Wales as Metro Outlet Limited and all were dissolved within two years of incorporation.
Both he and Ms Morrison were also named directors of a company called Croydon Village Outlet Limited until February, when they were replaced by Chris Simpson.
Some of the claims against the store are believed to be against that company instead of Metro Outlet Limited.
Neither Mr Cash nor Ms Morrison responded to requests for comment.
- Former Croydon teacher charged with 17 child sex offences
- Croydon social worker suspended for threatening to 'smack vulnerable boy in the mouth'
- Police believe missing Epsom teenage sisters may be in South Norwood
- Interview: Ridley Scott’s son Luke prepares to hit the big time with directorial debut Morgan
- 'Oldest person in Croydon' dies aged 107