|“Building a vast mansion even as the company you operate is collapsing all
around you… well, that could happen to anyone.”
Investors in Hanover Finance have moved quickly to help the company’s former head, Mark Hotchin, after a Herald on Sunday story revealed that he was struggling in poverty in Australia.
A Facebook page entitled “Friends of Mark Hotchin” has already gained over 800 “likes”, and a bank account is to be opened this week for the beleaguered former financier.
Hotchin was well-known for enjoying a lavish lifestyle, even after Hanover collapsed. But he has since been forced to downscale and is now living in grim conditions. Forced to endure the horror of a four-bedroom house, he spends his days swimming and playing tennis.
Iris Smythe is one of the people behind the campaign to help Hotchin. She said the way Hotchin had been forced to suffer was a outrage.
Smythe, 72, lost her house when the finance company collapsed. Her husband died in 2010.
“The stress killed poor Jim,” said Smythe. “We spent all our lives putting money aside for our retirement, and we thought we’d done the right thing. We even got professional advice. An investment adviser told us to spread the risk by putting half our money into Hanover, and the rest into a bunch of other finance companies. They all failed.”
Smythe said she felt no bitterness towards Hotchin.
“Goodness me, no! He was just doing his best, and look at the way he’s suffered. Jim and I lost our nice three-bedroom house in New Lynn, but our plight is trivial compared to Hotchin’s pain. He lost millions.
“When Jim died I had to borrow money off my daughters just to pay the funeral bill. But Hotchin can’t even afford the money for a personal trainer. The poor man.”
Smythe said she planned to donate what little she had left. She said she hoped the cash would help Hotchin enjoy a better life abroad.
“I expect the PR firm he uses doesn’t come cheap. Nor will all the lawyers he’s engaged. Maybe my few dollars can make a difference.”
Her friend Myra Zhang, 63, lost her savings when Hanover Finance collapsed. She once owned a house in a good Auckland suburb, but now lives with her son in a small two-bedroom unit. Her health is poor and she cannot work, and she spends most of her time thinking about Mark Hotchin.
“I just hope he’s eating properly, what with all the stress he’s under”, said Ms Zhang.
“I know all too well how hard it can be to get by when the cupboards are bare. I wish I could cook him and his family a nice big beef stew and send it round.
“But he lives in Australia. And I’ve not enough money for anything apart from baked beans and instant noodles.”
Members of the Friends of Mark Hotchin group say they have a number of fundraising plans. They have approached TV3 and are in discussions with the broadcaster about a telethon.
They have also applied for a grant from the Lotteries Commission, and if successful they will apply the grant to the establishment of an education centre, and a trust for families of finance company directors.
Group co-founder Denis Sheridan said he hoped they could help Hotchin and others like him.
“The public forgets that finance company bosses are just ordinary people. Building a vast mansion even as the company you operate is collapsing all around you… well, that could happen to anyone”, said Mr Sheridan.
“If we can help even one finance company boss avoid the horror of living in a house without a swimming pool, then it will have been worth the effort.”