A Twickenham business coach who massively exaggerated the value of his company, tricking investors into buying shares, has been ordered to pay £2 million in damages alongside his partner.

Darren Shirlaw, of Morley Road, Twickenham, was found liable for fraudulent misrepresentation at Central London County Court, jointly with Anna Barton, 54, his investor relations director, from Windsor.

The pair misrepresented that value of Shirlaws Group Ltd, a UK-based international coaching business, telling investors it was worth up to £60m, when its real value was between £290,000 and £635,000.

Richmond and Twickenham Times:

Three investors who sued Shirlaw and Barton for fraud were sold blocks of shares for £328,500, £300,000 and £49,863 between 2013 and 2015, based on the false valuations.

They were told the company’s income came from business coaching and that it would be able to sell millions of pounds worth of licences for its coaching method.

However, the Judge said most of the income came from sales of shares to new investors who were told their value would double overnight, like a ponzi scheme. 

Witness evidence described Mr Shirlaw, who represented himself at the trial, as “an effervescent and impressive character” who is "is enormously charismatic.”

He reeled investors in with offers of a 50% discount on the share price if investors became ‘partners’ and purchased quickly.

The shares at any price were fraudulently overvalued.

Shirlaw was asked to leave Shirlaw Group Ltd in 2018 and give up his shares when his involvement in the competitor BOB Group became known.

Paul Stead of Richmond Hill, Richmond, is one of the investors who sued Shirlaw for fraud after initially investing £300,000.

Mr Stead, who was formerly CEO of the Fitch design group, said he has devoted most of the last five and half years to getting his money back and exposing the fraud.

He said: “It’s been a very long journey but I decided to go through with it because it’s about stopping it happening again.”

Shirlaw and Barton were ordered to pay damages and costs of £1.87 milllion, including damages of £1,245,830, interest of £80,000 and legal costs of £530,000.