The Norton Motorcycle Company has had over a dozen owners over it’s 124 year on-again off-again run, but for the last few years, one sketchy character has been at the height of controversy, fraud, and just general sleaziness against motorcyclists: his name is Stuart Garner. Garner is the former owner of Norton Motorcycles, and a man hated by pretty much all fans of British motorcycling.
First, a quick synopsis on the Norton story so far…
Stuart Garner used to own the Norton Motorcycle Company, one of the most historic brands of British Motorcycling. He’s been accused of swindling motorcyclists and pensioners alike. He’s one greasy dude.
A history of greasiness
Even the way Garner came about buying Norton was greasy: Garner needed loans to come up with the funds to get enough money to buy Norton, so as collateral he offered up 100% of a company he owned. The problem was, he only owned 50% of the company, yet he offered up 100% of it. All businessman, zero legitimacy.
Another greasy way Garner got the funds to purchase Norton was by being the recipient of funds which came out of a scam. What does that mean? Two associates of Garner’s would set him up with a one million pound ($1.3 million US) loan. The duo, but not Garner, were convicted of fraud. Although there was no dirt implicating Garner in this particular instance of fraud, he was still benefiting directly from funds derived from fraud. The whole thing stank of greasiness.
And then came the pension fraud
In the mean time, Stuart Garner would use the money to buy Norton, and raise millions and millions by having a pensioner’s fund heavily invested in the company. Garner would take far more deposits for Norton motorcycles than the company would ever build.
He used the pension funds to buy himself a large mansion, almost a castle, Donington Hall. Donington Hall was home to the uber-rich French monarchy at one point, while they lived in exile during the French revolution. Stuart Garner thought it best to use Norton’s money to purchase this place as “company headquarters” rather than use the money to do things like pay his suppliers, spend on research and development, or honor warranty issues.
Lastly, Garner used the pensioner funds, and motorcyclist’s deposit funds to buy himself an Aston Martin for himself.
Just kidding, he used the pensioner’s funds to buy himself six Aston Martin’s. Because that’s what every fledgling motorcycle company needs!
The inevitable bankruptcy
The company would eventually go bankrupt. They were unable to pay their suppliers to get the parts they needed to build the motorcycles that they had already pre-sold, because all of the money given by motorcyclists and pensioners had gone into funding Garner’s lavish lifestyle instead.
The situation at Norton got so bad that there were reports of motorcycles going back to Norton for warranty work, only to have their parts stripped, so that Norton could use parts off of the warranty motorcycles to complete new motorcycles to take more payments from riders.
The entire situation was corrupt and dirty. It left many seniors screwed out of their pensions. Millions of dollars which at this point in their lives they will not be able to make back. It also left many motorcyclists out of pocket for their deposits, or in many cases even for their motorcycles which they paid for in full and never received.
The purchase by TVS Motors
Eventually the company would get bought up by TVS, a giant in the small displacement motorcycle space from India. TVS so far has been doing a fairly good job. They’ve been issuing recalls on issues made during the Garner era, and they’re trying to make things better moving forward.
Unfortunately, TVS has been very quiet about returning any money to either the pensioners, or simply the motorcyclists, that were ripped off.
And finally, the news!
We have an update on the Stuart Garner situation from rideapart.com, I’ll read you a few excerpts:
“Stuart Garner was sole trustee over three separate pension funds, into which a number of British pensioners invested some or all of their life savings. Through the three schemes, the funds invested totaled about £11 million (or £14,265,143.35 adjusted for inflation, which converts to about $18,705,311.87 in 2022). In Garner’s role as trustee, he then invested all those funds into Norton Motorcycles, where he was CEO and owner between 2008 and 2020.
When pensioners and their families attempted to withdraw the funds, as they were legally entitled to do, they were unable to do so.”
Super greasy. These people lost their entire lives’ savings.
Garner pleads guilty
Stuart Garner pleaded guilty to pension fund mismanagement-related offenses. For his dirty deeds he received only an eight-month sentence, suspended for two years. That effectively means that if Garnder commits no further offenses within the next two years, he will not serve any prison time.
Garner essentially stated that he mismanaged the funds out of ignorance, and did not know he was breaking the law. I don’t know too much about running multi-million dollar pension plans either, which is why if I were responsible for all of that money, I would hire some accountants or financial people who do. Garner apparently never considered this option.
The judge concluded that that Stuart Garner ought to have known better, essentially saying that that he doesn’t at all believe that Garner is as ignorantly innocent as he pretends to be. Despite this, he only issued Garner a slap on the wrist sentencing.
Where does this leave pensioners and motorcyclists?
A UK Pension Ombudsman ordered that Garner must pay back the pensioners who lost all their money. However, Garner declared bankruptcy, so unfortunately any restitution is probably never going to happen.
As for the motorcyclists who put money down or paid in full for a new Norton motorcycle, they are equally out of luck. TVS is honoring warranty work on Norton motorcycles that were sold and delivered. Unfortunately, TVS is doing nothing for the motorcyclists who put down millions of dollars towards Norton motorcycles that they never received, despite being a multi-billion dollar company.
The scope of the Norton disaster can’t be understated. This isn’t the kind of content I like to create, but many of you watched my previous videos on Norton and read my previous articles, so as soon as I saw the news I feel like I needed to wrap up the story, despite it being glum news.
What are your thoughts on the Norton saga of recent years? Was the sentence too light? Do you know anyone who was personally effected by this? What are your thoughts? I would love to hear from you.