All that sparkles: Rob Terry with wife Tracey
A quietcountry lane near the idyllic village of Wickham in rural Hampshire might seem like an unlikely place to launch a billion pound technology business.
This corner of the South Downs –where the tranquillity is disturbed only by the intermittent sound of shotguns chasing pheasants across the sky – feels a million miles away way from Silicon Valley.
But this is where Rob Terry, the disgraced founder and former boss of scandal-stricken insurance software firm Quindell, is hatching an audacious comeback.
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that the 49-year-old, who is still at the heart of a criminal investigation into the fall of the former darling of the junior AIM stock market, has struck his first investment since he was ousted from Quindell four years ago.
His unashamed return to the same insurance market will come as a shock to his critics. He had built Quindell, now known as Watchstone Group, from a golf club into a £2 billion insurance software business in just a few years thanks to a series of acquisitions. Few could explain how.
Terry had to leave the company after revelations he had offloaded shares in an opaque scheme.
Not long after his departure, Quindell parachuted in high-profile figures to clean up the company’s image, including former Tory leader Lord (Michael) Howard.
A few months later investors were shocked when Quindell was forced to restate accounts for 2014 under Terry’s reign, turning profits into losses. That same day, the Serious Fraud Office confirmed its investigation. Last night, the SFO declined to comment on its ongoing probe.
That Terry has returned to the insurance market while the fraud probe continues will enrage the thousands of private investors who were left nursing heavy losses as the shares tumbled. They can banish any thoughts that he has paid a heavy price for the fall of Quindell. At his Wickham estate, Quob Park, signs are everywhere of Terry’s wealth.
Tall brick walls and an advanced security system greet visitors and track their every step. A new, black Range Rover sits in the driveway. Nearby is another of his ventures since leaving Quindell: a 15-acre vineyard for sparkling wine.
His vineyard’s website, which features cringe-inducing photographs of Terry with wife Tracey, only lists one wine, available for pre-order at a discount £100. It claims the Quob Park Premiere Cuvée Rose Millésime 2018 has ‘a whiff of magnolia blossom followed stridently by perfumed wild-strawberry compote with a hints [sic] of buttered white sourdough toast’.
Yet far from hiding in his lair, as others might, brazen Terry is talking up his new insurance venture, recently renamed OS3 Digital, to investors – presumably those who made money from Quindell but who sold before it unravelled in dramatic fashion.
The OS3 website details ambitious plans that include aiming for a £1 billion valuation by 2022. Seemingly unshaken by the scandal at Quindell, he is even talking of floating the new business – although that would be in North America rather than the UK, he claims. Accounts filed at Companies House last month show OS3, formerly known as Quob Park Estate, generated £4.2 million in revenue in 2017, up 31 per cent on the year before. Hardly the growth of a company hurtling towards billion-pound status.
Pre-tax profits were £3.1 million but that is less than the £3.6 million it made two years earlier, suggesting plans are, at best, still in their early stages.
Drinking to success: Another of Rob Terry’s ventures since leaving Quindell is a 15-acre vineyard for sparkling wine
Like Quindell, whose stunning stock market rise baffled analysts and investors, it is not exactly clear what OS3 does.
It is a technology ‘platform’ that can be used by many industries, Terry says on the website. But it appears to focus mainly on insurance claims, just as Quindell did.
Its annual report claims OS3 has just made its first investment using shares worth £750,000 in a UK joint venture under its Care Approved insurance brand. Terry declined to comment on the identity of the partner or whether it or any other potential partners or customers were made aware of the ongoing fraud investigation into Quindell under his leadership.
However, the report says: ‘The JV [joint venture] will be in the UK under the OS3 Care Approved brand and will be used to target a segment of the UK claims market.’
In the report, which reads more like an investor pitch than a set of accounts, Terry says the new partner is ‘already established as a regulated claims management company’ and will use OS3’s technology to ‘provide a cloud based platform to digitally link various elements of the claims supply chain’.
He claims the deal could translate into £24 million in annual revenues and £11 million in profits. The figures do not appear to be audited by independent accountants. It has only 15 staff, including a number of former Quindell directors.
On the Care Approved website, it says it has nearly 1,300 members and appears to be a service that looks after your insurance policies and can help customers deal with claims if they have an accident.
OS3 Care Approved is registered to a building in Toronto, Canada. Further investigation shows the same business unit is used by a company called ReForge, a physiotherapy and chiropractor clinic.
When the MoS called the Care Approved phone number, an automated message said we had arrived at a firm called Healkore, which also appears to be a rehabilitation clinic. The MoS has learned Care Approved actually owns both ReForge and Healkore.
Back in Hampshire, locals in Wickham’s quaint tea room seem unaware of the infamous businessman in their midst. Terry’s vineyard is nothing special they say – there are already two others in the area.
The manager of the King’s Head pub said he had ‘no idea’ Terry lived in the area or that he ran Quindell, which is under investigation by the SFO. ‘We don’t buy any of the wine off him,’ he added.