OUT-OF-POCKET companies were forced to lay-off staff after a publishing firm was liquidated with debts of £129,000.

The director behind the insolvent company, Pinnacle Publishing, has continued to publish its lifestyle magazine Absolute under a new company, also called Absolute, while creditors haven’t received another penny.

Alan Prior, based in Brighton, claims on social media that he has quadrupled turnover at his company Pinnacle Group to £2 million.

Last night, he celebrated the relaunch of Absolute magazine at Hotel du Vin.

An investigation by The Argus and insolvency expert Verisona Law found that Mr Prior has directed 15 companies in the past ten years that have either been liquidated or dissolved.

These include Genersys Publishing, also registered at Pinnacle’s Brighton address, wound down by HMRC in 2013 with a value of £65,418.

Only last month, Afinis and Pure Creative Consultancy, also both registered at Marlborough House, were struck off and dissolved.

When Pinnacle Publishing was liquidated in May, Mr Prior was himself owed £20,000 and HMRC was owed £88,000.

Max Robinson, of MCR Printing and Pro-X UK, based in Hove, lost £38,000 after dealing with Pinnacle.

He said: “We had to make four people redundant. It crippled us.”

Tim Nisbet, of Clear Print Solutions in Forest Row, said he lost £25,000 after printing golf brochures for Pinnacle.

He said: “Money was always a problem. At one stage he was £60,000 outstanding. We managed to get it down to £25,000 then, after August, we never saw another penny. We took him to court and won a judgement but got nothing.

“We’re only a tiny company so this hit us hard.”

Julie Beard, of West Sussex Printers in Henfield, said: “We did a credit check on him but were warned off. People in the trade say don’t touch him.”

Alan Prior said Pinnacle Publishing was forced into liquidation by MCR Printing, which raised a winding-up petition.

He said: “We were paying them as best we could but they were putting us under more and more pressure. There was nothing I could do.

“People feel embittered when they’re not paid but it goes both ways, that’s how business works.

“If someone doesn’t pay me, I can’t pay someone else. That’s why it’s a limited company.

“Most printers are desperate for work and most would take our business. We have no problem getting credit.

“The law on insolvency is very strict and I have never been criticised in any way whatsoever by The Insolvency Service.”

Insolvency practitioner Nick Oliver, of Verisona Law, said: “Legally, there is nothing to prevent a director of an insolvent company from becoming the director of a new one provided he has acted ‘properly’ in managing the first company.

“Having reviewed the findings in relation to Alan Prior’s pattern of business, the history is concerning.

“I note in particular that he has been a director of three companies that have gone into insolvent liquidation in the last 12 months.”

Anyone who wants to complain about a company director should contact the relevant liquidator.

Otherwise, call the Insolvency Service’s Investigations Hotline on 0845 601 3546 or email intelligence. live@insovlency.gsi.gov.uk.