FORMER taxi mogul John Preece has revealed that his only regular income is a £60-a-week state pension.
Mr Preece was speaking as he confirmed he had officially launched a £10million legal claim against a bank.
He is blaming Lloyds TSB for him closing his Taxifast company last October, and has lodged a claim in Bristol High Court for alleged breach of contract.
Meanwhile, the former private hire king is living in his house in Portugal with just £60 a week in state pension coming in.
Mr Preece said he has been told he does not qualify for the full amount of pension – because he has not paid enough National Insurance contributions.
But the 68-year-old stressed: “I’m not destitute.”
He said he had “a little bit of income on top of my pension” but it was “different from the several hundred thousand pounds I was getting before”. He said this cash was raised by “realising assets” – in other words, selling things off.
Mr Preece has sold his luxury car, and had “yard sales” to dispose of contents of his house in the US.
That house is also on the market, although Mr Preece expects to make a loss on it.
“I can no longer pay the mortgage,” he said.
A yacht is also up for sale.
Mr Preece’s Plymouth home, valued at £800,000 by one bank, was security for a loan and overdraft, along with personal guarantees of Mr Preece’s.
Mr Preece said his ownership of the house is now under threat and said: “The banks are going for any assets I have in the UK. They have made a move to take my property. They have started proceedings. I will fight that.”
He said: “I’m 68. All I’m getting from the state is £60 a week pension.
“I’m amazed at that. I paid in so much over the years, but they are saying I had not paid enough National Insurance stamps.
“I’m relying on the charity of the few friends I have.
“I’m not destitute, but it’s a struggle.
“I’ve had bigger struggles and at least I have my health,” he said, pointing out that he does not smoke or drink.
“Forty-five years in the business and I have always paid my way.
“I’m realising assets, selling what I can. I have had yard sales in the US. I had a Lincoln Town Car, nearly new. I have sold that.
“I’m living off my assets. I have the boat up for sale.”
Mr Preece said he has “estimated” his claim at £10million because: “It cost millions to built Taxifast up. Taxifast was 22 years old.”
But he stressed the action is “not for me”.
He said he was also seeking the damages for Taxifast drivers who had shares in a workers’ benefit trust, and for Taxifast creditors.
Last autumn, Mr Preece ceased the trading activities of his firms Taxifast Ltd and its parent company Key Cabs Ltd.
At the time he said changes to the way Lloyds TSB financed his companies meant they were struggling to meet the weekly pay bill of their 350 employees and private hire drivers.
He said if he had not closed the companies, there was the possibility creditors would have forced them to be wound up.
The ‘particulars of claim’ he filed at Bristol High Court give further details. It alleges Taxifast changed from an invoice discounting system to a factoring system “under duress”.
Factoring and invoice discounting are similar systems, whereby firms receive cash up-front using sales invoices as collateral.
Invoice discounting involves a business borrowing a percentage of the value of its sales ledger.
Under a factoring arrangement, the business sells its invoices.
Mr Preece alleges this shift resulted in the bank seeking “further unlimited personal guarantees” from him and a huge reduction in the amount of cash paid to Taxifast under the factoring arrangement.
The particulars of claim said this “sudden reduction in cash flow” led to Mr Preece being unable to pay Taxifast wages and therefore having to cease trading.
Mr Preece said there would be two court hearings, one to assess liability and another to decide on the quantity of any damages, if awarded.
A Lloyds TSB spokesman said: “We are aware that Mr Preece intends to lodge a claim but have not received it yet. When we do, we will consider what he has to say.”