Yesterday, six years after the company was founded, the liquidation of Heighway Pinball was approved by the remaining shareholders, bringing the story of the UK’s first pinball manufacturer to a close. That closure, along with the very few remaining company assets, means that anyone owed machines, parts, refunds, invoice payments or wages is unlikely to receive anything back from the liquidation process. For Heighway Pinball it really is ‘Game Over’.
The man who founded and ran the business until June last year is Andrew Heighway. He has attracted an unprecedented level of opprobrium and hostility from members of the pinball community and from former Heighway Pinball employees for the way he managed his company, and how, nine months after leaving with a severance package, the factory is now closed, the stock cupboards are bare and a team of workers are out of their jobs.
Pinball News has interviewed Andrew Heighway to address these points and many more questions about how the company was run.
Our original intention was to conduct a phone interview, but Andrew was concerned about inadvertently saying something which might ultimately result in legal action against him. As publishers of his interview, Pinball News was also concerned about this and offered him the opportunity to redact or remove only those parts of his answers which might be legally contentious. Andrew wished instead to have our questions submitted in advance so he could consider his responses, which was not something we were prepared to do in an audio interview. We felt it would be disingenuous to conduct a seemingly spontaneous and unrehearsed interview if Andrew knew all the questions we would be asking. We wanted to hear his instinctive reactions and interject with additional questions if we felt there were any points which appeared unclear or contradictory.
In addition, Andrew asked for final approval of the interview before we published in case he was not happy with the way it had gone. This was another red line for us.
The compromise was to make this written interview instead. It isn’t our preferred way, but there are a number of important questions which need to be asked and uncomfortable points which have to be raised. In addition, this is likely to be Andrew’s final pinball-related interview and so be his last chance to offer his defence against the multitude of allegations made against him.
Why are you doing this interview?
There are two sides to every story and I have the right to put my side of the story forwards.
You’ve been involved in a number of previous businesses, including advertising and racing. Was Heighway Pinball the largest of those?
Yes, it was
Are any of the previous businesses still trading?
What happened to them? Why are they not successful companies today?
One of the biggest lies circulating about me today is that I have eight failed companies behind me. When doing research on me, eight previous director or company secretary listings of me are listed. I did not own all of these companies and was not even a shareholder in some of them. If the original researcher had undertaken proper research, then they would know that a company posted as ‘dissolved’ does NOT mean ‘liquidated’. Sometimes companies simply cease trading. If accounts are not filed with Companies House in the UK then the companies are naturally ‘dissolved’ by Companies House as a matter of course. There is ZERO evidence to say that ANY of these companies were liquidated.
The question was why are none of those companies a success, or are even still trading? What I am wondering is, do you have a history of running companies for the short-term and then closing them down, or are there any longer-term successes?
I have run, or been involved in, different businesses over the last 28 years since I left school. I was involved in motor racing for a while. When that activity ceased then there was no need for the company any more. I was involved in another company as a director and a company secretary – but not a shareholder – and left when my contract ended.
I also lived and worked overseas at various periods when a UK company would no longer be needed.
I understand that you are looking for patterns here – but there are none. Someone can legitimately run, or work in, a number of different companies within a 28-year period.
Before setting up Heighway Pinball, had you ever managed a team of employees before?
Yes – both in businesses I have run and in businesses in which I was employed
Do you think you were up to the task of managing that many employees?
Yes I do, but circumstances made this more difficult as time went on
Do you consider yourself an honest man?
Yes I do. I have to live with myself and my own values.
How do you reconcile that with making so many promises about people’s games or replacement parts being delivered – often to their face at pinball shows – and then not fulfilling those promises, knowing you wouldn’t be delivering on them?
Your assumption is that I ‘knew’ we couldn’t deliver on our/my promises.
We always prioritised sending out replacement parts. Delays sometimes occurred because we had to wait for replacement parts to be built or delivered. Replacing populated playfields was nearly impossible in the early stages of production.
What people should understand is that every time we thought we had overcome one problem, then other problems occurred and led to more delays.
In hindsight, I was often overly optimistic with our timelines and so i understand why people feel that I lied to them. But I honestly never intentionally misled customers. I did my best to keep my promises but often fell short.
I absolutely did not live up to my own expectations of myself but I never intentionally lied to customers either. In hindsight, we absolutely did not have the resources to be the company that I wanted us to be. Our Customer Services, Technical Support, Quality Control and Electronics departments all suffered from under-funding compared to our rivals. Our technical platform was pitched very high but was too much for a company of our limited resources. Hindsight teaches a lot.
Did you really believe you would ship games in the timescales you stated, despite everyone – even the game designer – telling you those dates were ridiculous? Why did you not listen to what everyone was telling you?
Yes I did believe it. But as each week went by the mountain of tasks got bigger and bigger. In hindsight, I vastly under-estimated what it would take to build a world-class game. But the biggest killers for us were the technical and supplier problems that we suffered and our lack of resources meant it took us much longer to fix problems than it should have done
There seems to be a trail of dissatisfied, disgruntled and vitriolic people who have worked with or for you, or had business dealings with you in the past. Every time I’ve told anyone I’m sharing a room with you at a show, I always get the same reaction: “Good luck getting him to pay his share”. Why does nobody seem to have a good word to say?
It is human nature to put down someone in my position. Also, in this social media age, everyone has an opinion. Ex-employees are ex employees for a reason. If someone gets fired, for example, do you expect them to have good things to say?
As a pinball dealer, I traded hundreds of pinball machines and most of those transactions went smoothly and without problem. Also, people love to ‘jump on the bandwagon’ and see other people criticising me and want to join in.
But one of my characteristics is that I am a fighter and I fought for five long years to keep the company alive and achieve its goals. Sometimes, when you fight so hard, you make enemies.
I’ll end this point by asking you a question. We shared a room on quite a few occasions over the last six years. Do I owe you any money for any of these rooms? Did I honour my commitment to pay my share of the room at Expo 2017 when I didn’t even attend the event? We both know the answer is ‘yes’ to these questions.
You also seem to have a history of not paying people or suppliers, or only paying them when absolutely forced to, such as before being taken to court. Is that an ethical way to operate?
No it isn’t. But as I said in my previous answer, sometimes you have to fight for survival. Owning a business is often about ‘juggling’ and many times you have to prioritise certain payments over others.
A well-funded company doesn’t have to fight so hard. This was one of our biggest shortfalls.
Was the continued survival of Heighway Pinball the number one priority for you during your time in charge, overriding all other considerations.
Absolutely. The survival of the company, and everyone/everything directly associated with it, was always the number one priority. There are many people who can vouch that I regularly went ‘over the edge’ and ‘beyond the call of duty’ to keep the company alive.
Some have suggested that I didn’t care about the business and this is simply ridiculous. My passion and commitment were there for everyone to see. I put the company ahead of every aspect of my life – including my health. As many will tell you – I have been unsuccessfully battling diabetes for years now and it was impossible to set aside any time for my health. But I cared about every single customer of the company and was determined that every paying customer would receive their paid-for game, or refund. I departed the company because the investor group promised it would happen and I had no other option but to leave.
Nothing was more important?
Nothing was more important. Employee wages were always the first priority.
The original first game was Circe’s Animal House – a party theme mixed with ancient Greek mythology. Eventually – after several showings – you accepted that it was a poor theme choice and ultimately picked a love of yours – motorcycle racing – as a good replacement theme. Do you think this was a wise decision given subsequent sales numbers?
This wasn’t the driving factor behind this theme change. The speed of the gameplay pushed the theme towards something ‘fast’. Motor racing (auto/car) or car-themed games had been covered extensively by our competitors over the years. Motorcycle racing had barely been covered over the last few decades and this is why it was chosen.
Ultimately, it is my belief that ‘unlicensed’ games generally sell very poorly compared to licensed games and Full Throttle was up against strong licensed games from our competitors at the time. Many pro pinball players, and actual game owners, love the game.
Dave Sanders and I had big arguments over the theme of the game. Ultimately, we listened to the opinions and advice of two world-class pinball designers and changed the theme from ‘Circe’.
Why did you insist Playboy was a good idea for a theme, when everyone was telling you it was misogynistic, outdated and potentially downright offensive in this day and age?
It was always my intention to cover a broad spectrum of themes for our future pinball titles. I was personally fed up with the endless stream of superhero-themed games, and games targeted at children. I also have a personal dislike for adults being treated like ‘children’, in general – and I wanted an adult theme where groups of adults could play a game that was more relevant to them. Bally released one ‘Playboy’ game, Data East another and Stern one more again – and these were at times when ‘Playboy’ as a brand was far more controversial than it is today. ‘Playboy’ as a brand, and pinball as an activity, have their paths in history intertwined. I believed it would be a popular game choice amongst adults.
This appears to be part of a pattern of everyone telling you something is a bad idea, and then you ignoring them and doing it anyway. Do you think you welcome others’ opinions, and listen to them?
Many of these patterns you are talking about concern ‘ex employees’ – and as I have said previously – many are ‘ex’ for a reason. I believe that I often welcomed other opinions. For example, we had endless meetings about ‘Alien’ and many team members had direct input into the game and how it turned out. This would not have happened if I had controlled ‘every’ aspect and every decision, without counsel, as you have suggested.
Did you pay yourself a salary at Heighway Pinball?
How much was that?
In year 4 it was £40,000 for the year and in year 5 it was £45,000. However, in reality, the actual figure amounted to approximately £25,000 – £30,000 each year as I put a substantial amount of money back into the company via personal loans I took out for the company, proceeds from selling pinball games in my own personal collection, funds from my personal bank account and funds from my personal credit cards. Often, I would even pay for wages and parts from my personal bank account and credit cards.
Before my shares were sold to the investor group, the company personally owed me in excess of £54,000 (Director’s Loan Account). All of these claims can be verified by the company’s accountants.
What personal benefits did the company pay for? Car? House? Living expenses? Loans? Storage? The purchase, rental or leasing of any equipment not directly-related to the design and manufacture of Heighway Pinball machines?
In general, most items listed above were part of my ‘salary package’ and wage. There was always a degree of consolidation at the end of each accounting year by the company’s accountants. As professional accountants, they have a legal responsibility to report the exact situation of the company – including my own personal affairs relating to the company.
Could you clarify that? Are you saying those listed expenses came out of your salary, or they were additional to that salary of £40k/£45k?
The listed expenses, where applicable, would be consolidated as part of my salary package and director’s loan account balance.
Who gets to see these accounts?
Company accounts get submitted to Companies House – as per normal rules.
Did you pay all your employees a salary too?
This is a strange question. All employees were paid salaries and all salaries were logged with, and calculated by, the company’s accountants.
Who at the company didn’t you pay a salary to, and why?
Contractors were paid retainers and not salaries.
Dave Sanders, for his own reasons, chose to work for the company on a ‘voluntary’ basis.
I know that this is a widely-discussed and controversial topic and so I will address it in detail.
Dave and I have been friends for nearly nine years. Dave shared the company dream from the very beginning. At the start, Dave had the option to be directly involved with the company – including shares – and he declined. In 2015 I told Dave that the company’s finances were much healthier and asked him if he would consider becoming a paid employee. Again Dave declined.
Dave has certain personal reasons why he declined, but I am not breaking any confidences by stating that Dave had his own reasons for doing everything on a ‘voluntary’ basis. One big reason that I can discuss is that Dave wanted the freedom to come and go as he pleased – with no set working days or working hours as an ‘employee’ would have. Dave always preferred working from home and when he did visit the factory, he would often be found playing pinball games on the factory floor.
Of course, Dave wasn’t going to do all of this for nothing – but he wanted to be paid retrospective royalties for his design work in the future. Dave had his OWN reasons for wanting this so in no way can I be accused of manipulating Dave or taking advantage of him. What was I supposed to do? ‘Force’ Dave to take a salary?
Dave and I had a number of discussions about his future contract – and it’s true, we had our disagreements about this. My personal preference was that part of such a package would see Dave become a shareholder in the company. Dave preferred to have higher royalties instead. Between April-June 2017, both Dave and I agreed that it would be more prudent for his contract to be finalised with the new owners of the company – should such a deal proceed.
Dave is a very nice guy and his heart is absolutely in the right place. I also completely understand his anger and dismay about the situation – but I believe his anger should be directed at the investor group.
Dave told me approximately a month ago that he had signed a contract previously with the investor group – and he seemed very happy about this. Dave did not discuss any details of this contract with me. I have heard reports that Dave is now suffering financially as a direct result of this contract breach. If this is true, then this is grossly unfair. The question needs to be seriously asked as to whether the investor group led Dave on with a ‘false’ contract when it would appear that they had every intention of closing the company down anyway, once the ‘Alien’ license had expired.
Even though Dave appears to be blaming me online for this situation – I feel very bad for Dave that he has been put into this situation. Dave does not deserve this treatment on any level.
What did you personally get out of selling your stake in Heighway Pinball?
This matter is covered by a legally-binding confidentiality clause and therefore I cannot comment on this.
Are you personally being chased for any outstanding debts from your time at Heighway Pinball?
Yes – considerably so. I am being chased for a large sum of money as I was personal guarantor on many loan and finance deals taken out for the company. The investor group accepted the responsibility of changing guarantees over to themselves but ultimately refused to do this. They knew full well that this chain of events would happen and I believe that it was part of their overall plan.
I expect to suffer to the tune of at least £25,000-£30,000 from this liquidation – maybe more.
When you left Heighway Pinball, what was your understanding about what was to happen with the company and what changes the investment group would make?
I never wanted to leave the company. I was pursuing other financial solutions for the company but I didn’t have the time to see these through. The investor group made clear that they were prepared to put considerable funds into the company to save everyone involved but that I was to depart the company so they could assume control. I cannot discuss any details of my departure from the company as they are covered under a confidentiality clause.
It has been suggested that I ‘duped’ or ‘misled’ the investor group but I can categorically deny this. One of the duties that is legally required of ANY purchaser of a majority shareholding in a UK company is that they must perform due diligence on their proposed investment. What would you consider to be a reasonable period of due diligence for five allegedly wealthy and successful businessmen? One day? One week? One month? Their due diligence period lasted for THREE MONTHS. During this time they spoke to every employee, contractor, supplier and distributor in great length. They were regularly in the factory during these three months and spent a huge amount of time understanding every aspect of how the business worked – including every aspect of the technical set-up of the company’s games.
The investor group also went public with their intentions and told everyone that they would make sure that all customers would receive their games and refunds.
If this is true, then why – once the deal to purchase my shares had been completed – did the investor group form a brand new company called Pinball Brothers, allegedly run all parts purchasing and new sales through this company and transfer all of Heighway Pinball’s intellectual property into their new company – as reported to me on Thursday 3rd May 2018 by MB Insolvency – the company handling the insolvency of Heighway Pinball? It would appear that the company was asset-stripped at an early stage and by the end – April 2018 – few assets remained to liquidate for any customers and creditors of Heighway Pinball Limited.
It has been reported that the investor group has exported all company parts back to Europe. Does this seem fair to customers? It has also been reported that the investor group shipped a number of finished ‘Alien’ games to Europe to secretly sell to new customers. Why are these games not being delivered to customers of Heighway Pinball who paid for their games a long time ago?
The truth would appear to be that they always had every intention of closing the company down once the Alien license had expired and had no intention of sending existing customers their games or issuing them with any refunds. It appears that they did the ‘bare minimum’ to drag the company through till April 2018 before liquidating it.
Also – let me refer back to Dave Sanders again. It was DAVE that designed Full Throttle and Alien – and apparently took over design of Queen and other games. I believe that Dave is the legal owner of the design rights to these games and as such, he should take legal advice on any actions he can take against the investor group – including the recovery of any games that they may be trying to sell in Europe. Quite simply – I question whether Pinball Brothers actually owns ANY of the design rights to any of Heighway Pinball’s games.
Let me finish this point by being 100% clear again. I did not want to depart from the company. I wanted to stay and honour the company’s commitment to every single customer to ensure they received their games and for the company to thrive in the future. When faced with only one option for the company to continue and survive – I sold my stake to investors who promised they would honour these commitments – but only if I departed the company. If you were faced with such a decision, wouldn’t you do the same?
You do know there is a Go Fund Me campaign set up to help Dave pay his living expenses? How does that make you feel?
I feel absolutely gutted that Dave has been put in this position by the investor group for the reasons I stated previously. It appears he was given a false contract by the investor group and undertook work for them – on the basis of this contract – even though they apparently planned all along to close down the company and invalidate his contract. Dave really needs to take legal advice on what his options are and I would be more than willing to assist Dave if he wants my help.
What did you know about the Pinball Brothers company and when did you first know about them?
I was told about the pending insolvency – by a smaller investor – a few days before it was revealed in public. I heard about the existence of ‘Pinball Brothers’ the day before news broke online about the insolvency. I first spoke to the insolvency company handling this business – MB Insolvency – on Thursday 3rd May 2018. Mark Hunt told me that the assets of the business were stripped a long time ago – and were now owned by Pinball Brothers. Does this sound like a fair deal to customers and creditors of the company?
I have also been told that the investor group has disposed of two pinball machines that belong to a finance company – a Walking Dead LE and a Wizard of Oz SE. I am waiting to hear from the finance company as to whether they wish to involve the police in this matter.
I still can’t believe that they have done what they have done.
Do you think Heighway Pinball was in good shape when you sold your stake?
Our serious problems started in Pinball Expo 2016 – and I believe that sabotage played a big part in the company’s problems. There were some people in the pinball industry who were very threatened by Alien and how it could harm their own game sales. Does this claim sound far-fetched? Here are some facts for you. This is the chain of events that began at Pinball Expo:
- Company tools and electronics were stolen from Heighway Pinball’s stand in the main Exhibition Hall at the Westin Hotel.
- On announcing the start of Full Production at Expo, a fraud campaign was launched against Heighway Pinball Customers. This was a planned and targeted campaign. Customers were told to pay ‘Heighway Pinball’ bank accounts and sent special instructions on how to do so. These were fraudulent bank accounts – each one with a different bank account number for each customer. Confidence in our payment systems was decimated as we urgently wrote to all customers telling them NOT to make any payments to accounts purporting to be ours. Two customers were conned and paid over 12,000 Euros to these fraudulent accounts. I spent many hours in Chicago on the phone to the UK police, the Serious Fraud Office and the individual banks in question. The planning of this fraud campaign was meticulous and its timing was planned and targeted.
- Significant online campaigns were launched to defame the company, and myself personally. Advice is being taken on possible legal action
The online campaign against the company was so bad that the likes of Owen Clipsham (Rubber Ducks on Pinside) wrote directly to Heighway Pinball customers, trying to convince them to cancel their orders and get refunds. I have proof about this and am seeking legal advice about this matter. These events led to mass customer cancellations that a company of our size, and in our position, was not able to deal with. The situation deteriorated to the point where more funds were needed or the company would have to close.
Why do you think that the business was liquidated just nine months after you left?
I believe that the investor group had no intention of honouring any of its financial commitments and that they had every intention of asset-stripping the company and liquidating it following the end of the Alien license.
The investor group who took over the running of Heighway Pinball are saying that they didn’t realise the true state of the company’s finances and operational problems, that you hid a number of liabilities, and that the actual situation they found was so bad that they could not continue losing money. What do you think about that as an explanation for the liquidation?
As mentioned previously – the investor group conducted a thorough audit of the company over a three month period and therefore conducted their due diligence – which they are legally bound to undertake. The company’s accountants hold documents that prove the extensive statements I officially made to the investor group about the state of the company, and its dealings.
The investor group absolutely knew what they were getting into. I am sure that most intelligent people will understand what really happened when they understand the situation and story behind Pinball Brothers.
During your tenure as head of the company, your use of language appeared almost deliberately misleading at times. Saying for instance, that a title was shipping when in reality you might have only sent out one incomplete or prototype game to a distributor or to a show. Was it your intention to mislead, and if so, to what end? To bring in more orders and more money?
I think I have already discussed this point, in detail, previously. Even when the game was deemed to be ‘ready’ and I was confident of making such claims – a new bombshell (often technical) would delay matters further. I never set out to mislead anyone.
What can you do or say to all those people who paid money to you for games they never received and are now never likely to receive?
I deeply regret this situation. I did my very best and understand that I fell short of most people’s expectations. I sold the company, in good faith, in the full belief that everyone would receive their games or refunds. I believed the promises of the investor group – like everyone else did. The end result is nothing short of shameful.
If you were a customer who prepaid and never received a game, what would you do?
I would be asking serious questions of the investor group and how they apparently misled everyone for the reasons I have stated in this interview.
In hindsight, I very much regret that we took pre-orders for Alien.
I knew many of the company’s customers personally. We met at pinball shows, drank beers, laughed and shared our passion of pinball together.
My name was in the company name. I was proud of what we were doing and wanted everyone to receive and enjoy our games.
I can only feel ashamed and disappointed by the end result.
You had a large following on social media, both highly supportive and actively hostile with everything in-between. How did comments on social media impact on the business – both your comments and those of others?
They had a huge impact on the business. I managed the situation as best as I could in ever-more difficult circumstances. The actions of a few people such as Owen Clipsham (Rubber Ducks) and Chris Kooleris (Kaneda) directly contributed to customer cancellations and what is termed a “run on the bank”. I am currently seeking legal advice against both individuals.
They weren’t the only ones. There were plenty of other people who did their best to make customers cancel their orders.
I also accept that my unrealistic timeframes impacted negatively on the business.
Do you think any of the negativity was justified?
I think that negative comments from paying customers is absolutely justified. There is no excuse for customers not receiving their games or refunds.
What would you do differently on social media if you could go back?
I would not have taken any pre-orders and I would have greatly over-estimated, not under-estimated, my timelines and announcements.
Where did the money to buy the Curl Curl hydrofoil come from?
No company funds were used to purchase any hydrofoils
Can you guarantee that none of the Heighway Pinball investor or pre-order money was spent on the Curl Curl or to help fund your hydrofoil venture?
Yes. Absolutely no funds relating to investors or the company were used in this venture.
Was it just a coincidence then that you registered a new company for the hydrofoil in the same week you told Alien buyers that the game was ready to ship and they should send in their final payments? (September 2016)
Yes it was a coincidence. The company formation cost less than £50 and I simply wanted to protect the company name for a possible future business venture. The company was predominantly dormant and unused until I departed Heighway Pinball in June 2017. This claim can be confirmed by official company filings.
Do you think the fallout from the Heighway Pinball situation will damage your plans for the Curl Curl?
I am sure there are people who would like me to disappear completely and not engage in any future activity of any kind.
When the investor group made their investment(s) in Heighway Pinball, what changes did they demand in return for that investment?
Other than my forced departure from the company, I cannot comment on the specifics of my departure – for legal reasons.
Before the investor group became involved, was the company Heighway Pinball the one and only business involved in the making of your games, or were there any subsidiary, sister or related businesses with any financial involvement?
I was advised – at an early stage – to set up a separate company so the sales and manufacturing could be kept separate. For this reason, Heighway Pinball (Sales) Limited was formed. However, this separation never gathered any steam and most of the business activities remained with the main company – Heighway Pinball Limited. No intellectual property, assets, etc… ever changed hands between these companies.
Therefore, to answer your question – other than this one technical exception, all business relating to the making of games was handled by Heighway Pinball Limited only until I departed the company in June 2017.
Was the Heighway Pinball company the same business you began rather earlier when based in Ireland?
I was trading personally as ‘Heighway Pinball’ when I was living in Ireland, yes. The business only became a private limited company when I moved back to the UK in 2012.
How much of the manufacturing equipment was owned by the company, and how much leased, borrowed, or on other kinds of finance?
A lot of the equipment was obtained through hire purchase and lease purchase agreements. Some equipment was purchased outright and financed retrospectively. Some equipment was owned by the company outright when I departed the company.
If presented with an asset list by the liquidator, then I can comment on specifics and what equipment I believe should be owned directly by the company.
Was Heighway Pinball money used for anything other than the operating expenses and stock purchasing? Was it, for instance, used to help fund the UK Pinball Party shows or buy or lease pinball or arcade machines.
I believe that I have answered most of these questions previously. The UK Pinball Party was used as a promotional vehicle by Heighway Pinball – often for new announcements and product launches – and did contribute some ‘sponsorship’ funds accordingly to the show.
How many Full Throttle and Alien machines were produced?
For legal reasons, I will not answer this question.
Why is releasing this information a problem? It would be useful to the IPDB to have complete production details of both games.
As I have had no involvement with the company since June 2017, I have no information as to how many Alien games were produced following my departure.
In any case, I am unsure of the legalities pertaining to disclosure of this information. Therefore I will not comment further, sorry.
Has the licence for Alien now expired?
I have not had any involvement in running the company since June 2017. I have heard the rumours that it was not renewed. You will have to seek confirmation from the investor group
It was due to expire at the end of December 2017, right?
I am not commenting on this specifically. You would seem to be well-informed.
Can any existing Alien machines still be sold by Pinball Brothers or whoever now has the remaining stock?
If the license has indeed expired, then I believe the answer is no. I am sure FOX would be very angry to hear that games were being sold after the expiration of this license. If I was Dave Sanders – for reasons I have discussed earlier – I would be taking legal advice pertaining to the ownership of the game designs.
Was the Queen licence in the name of Heighway Pinball? If so, do you believe it was transferable to another company?
A good question and one that I cannot answer, for legal reasons. It would be easy for someone to find out this information.
It seems odd you can’t comment. Where might one look to find out such information?
It is common public knowledge that Bravado (agency) handles most affairs for Queen.
You were very keen on the use of Non-Disclosure Agreements or NDAs to prevent people talking about business-critical matters such as licences, designs or finances. Now you are not running the company and it is about to be liquidated, do you release those people under NDAs from them?
NDAs are legal documents that I would assume would remain legally binding. What is the point of having an NDA if everyone wants to break them? Sadly, many people will post matters ‘anonymously’ even though they have signed NDAs or simply break the terms of the NDA anyway. These are cowardly acts, in my opinion
The NDAs would have been contracts between the individuals and either Heighway Pinball or you personally. Once Heighway Pinball ceases to exist those contracts with Heighway Pinball would become void as there is no company to which reputational or financial harm could be done. You could say that as far as you are concerned anyone under an NDA is released from it. They would then be in a position to confirm many of your points.
You are making a number of assumptions here. What if a third party was to purchase the company from the liquidators? What if the company IP that has been allegedly transferred over to Pinball Brothers includes a transfer of confidentiality agreements? Therefore I have nothing further to add.
Can you ever see yourself being involved in the pinball business in any way ever again?
No, even if I wanted to. To most people – the truth is unimportant. The accusations against me will stay.
Looking back at everything that has happened, what lessons have you learned about starting a pinball business, and probably more importantly, what would you do differently if you could go back and start again?
A lot more capital investment, simpler game features, no pre-orders and realistic timelines/expectations.
You said in your post on Pinside that you would defend your integrity. How do you think your integrity stands after this whole episode?
Some things said about me are true. I accept my responsibilities. But there have also been a lot of lies said about me.
Many people criticise the UK pinball community and it is true – there is a lot of toxicity in the community. I gave a lot to the UK pinball community over the last 15 years and I personally feel betrayed by many of them. With some notable exceptions, I never felt there was any real support from the UK community for what our company was trying to do. On the flip side, I loved dealing with everyone at the USA shows. There are a lot of knowledgeable pinball fans in the States and it was a pleasure to meet so many enthusiastic pinball folk. I made a lot of good friends in the USA and I thank them all for their support over the last year – and the last few weeks, in particular.
Whatever the facts are – my reputation and integrity have been destroyed by the many accusations against me.
Once it no longer exists as a company, what do you think Heighway Pinball’s lasting legacy will be? Do you think it will be remembered in a positive light?
Because of recent events – in the last year, in particular – the answer is a clear ‘no’.
But take a look at the games the company produced. Bacardi Baffleball – a quality game and a huge success for Bacardi. Full Throttle – critically acclaimed by some of the best pinball players on the planet – if not a commercial success. Alien Pinball – look at the depth of this game … this is not a game that was born and appeared overnight.
It took years to develop a world-beating game. Time = money. Technical delays = money. Speak to customers of Heighway Pinball games. Many have had technical problems, but there are also many customer games that are fully working. Many will tell you how well-built the games are. How solid they are. How technically superior they are to our rival’s games. All this technology needs time to invent and time to develop and time to nurture.
Some of our biggest challenges were the hardware and software systems. Romain Fontaine – who was a great technical director – couldn’t even fix the problems with IO boards that he designed, in the eight months before he left the company. We took on too much technically – I absolutely accept that. The company also had HUGE supplier problems. In particular, there were HUGE problems with the playfields from our supplier. In one shipment, more than 90% of the playfields were rejected by us. It caused the company massive problems and delays.
The multiple software and hardware problems at every turn led to more and more delays. It was a very difficult situation to manage. With hindsight – we needed much greater resources – and more key technical staff – to truly fix the games’ technical issues.
It is also my personal opinion that the investor group did NOT hire the correct personnel to overcome the outstanding technical issues. Without hiring an experienced Technical Director, then nobody was truly qualified to understand the technical issues and most importantly, fix them.
But – the fact remains that customers were owed money at the end. That is not acceptable on ANY level.
What will you do now?
The Investor group/Pinball Brothers have done a great job in deflecting the blame about this sorry situation to me, whilst apparently running away from all of their debts and responsibilities and taking all of the main Heighway Pinball assets with them. Have they even publicly apologised for any of this?
This is a witch hunt now. An angry mob with their pitch forks where the truth, or my side of the story, doesn’t seem to matter.
Many people comment that I am now a wealthy individual. The opposite is true and I will personally prove to you – if necessary – that I am heavily in debt.
Personal threats have been made against me and my home address has even been posted online by forum members.
I think the safety and security of my family is my main priority right now.
In addition to the points raised during the interview, there have been many accusations made against Andrew on various online forums concerning his governance of Heighway Pinball’s finances and his personal interactions with former employees or contractors. Rather than address them all one-by-one in the interview, Andrew requested the opportunity to answer these claims in the separate statement below.
I have read many of the statements made about me in public. To many of you reading this, it doesn’t matter what I say. You have heard just one side of the story and are not interested in hearing my side. The same is true of the UK Pinball Forum – PinballInfo – who even refused my registration and clearly did not believe that I deserved the opportunity to defend myself from the many accusations they allowed to be printed about me on their site.
To those of you who believe in a fair trial, I have answered the questions as honestly as possible. I have never said I was a saint – but I am not the criminal that many portray me to be either.
As this is likely to be my last public statement to the pinball community, I will make a few summary statements here first – to address direct accusations at me.
The Daventry Hotel is not owed a penny by myself or the UK Pinball Party. The UK Pinball Party was run as a business and unsurprisingly to most, flying guests in from the USA, paying grants to everyone who brought machines to the show, electrics, infrastructure, truck hire, etc … all cost money.
The identity of poster ‘Atlantis’ is Alan O’Grady and he can be easily researched in the UK arcade community. We settled our debt before I left Ireland, as he knows. This is nothing more than opportunistic defamation.
An Ex-Employee Whistleblower made a statement recently on This Week In Pinball. Was this *really* an ex employee? Or was it someone else? Why the anonymity? There are so many inaccuracies with this story that I wouldn’t know where to start. If this was an actual ex-employee then I would state that employees are hired to do specific jobs and not to become ‘pretend CEOs’.
Alien Pinball – Aurich Lawson did a great job with the Alien artwork given the limited resources given to us by FOX. Brian Allen was brought onboard because Aurich’s LE backglass wasn’t good enough (I held a public vote at a pinball show) and he had run out of ideas then. Brian did an amazing job with the LE backglass art that luckily FOX also liked.
Defamatory and libellous/slanderous comments have been made about me by the likes of Owen Clipsham, Phil Palmer, Ewan Meadows, Chris Kooleris and a number of other people. Many of these people have their own agendas and well-informed people will know this.
I never bought new Porsches, new Minis, swimming pools or tropical islands – as has been alleged. I did drive a 12-year old Porsche that I sold in 2017 for £6,500. I no longer own a car.
Thank you to the many amazing people I met and worked with in this industry/hobby.
I leave the industry with great sadness that I was unable to complete my mission in pinball and also deep sorrow that some customers did not receive their games and refunds from a company that had my name in the title.