“We do a lot, per se, in the shadows”

The Andrew Thorn chronicles: a $100,000 cash drop to legal threats in under 48 hours

Hi,

Earlier this week I wrote about the mysterious case of Andrew Thorn in “The $100,000 money drop that went bad”. Thorn was the man behind The Safety Warehouse, who organised a giant money drop in central Auckland that contained fake money, leaving people upset and injured.

We exchanged a number of Instagram DMs — in which he told me “you’re not a big deal” (true) and “It’s parasites like you that use lies to up your own status” (not true).

Negative feedback isn’t all that uncommon doing what I do. After my Lonely story last week I received a bunch of feedback including “you’re a wormy piece of shit”. People get angry when you call them out.

Anyway, I blocked Andrew on Instagram because I didn’t really want to keep speaking to him. So he came at me on Facebook instead:

At first I thought it might have been a troll account, but this was the man himself: Andrew Thorn. I checked, and this was the same face I recalled from the pretend money he’d printed.

I became increasingly curious as to who Andrew Thorn was. After all, if he kept wanting to talk to me online, I figured I should know who I was talking to.


A vodka empire.

Digging into his business ventures before The Safety Warehouse, I came across Andrew Thorn’s Vodka Plus. The website for Vodka Plus seemed like your bog standard online storefront, but clicking through to try and buy some vodka — I was out of luck. It was all sold out.

Curious as to what was going on, I jumped over to the Companies Register and discovered that Vodka Plus Limited is being removed:

“The Registrar of Companies has initiated action to remove the company from the register and public notice was given. The objection period has lapsed and the Registrar will continue with the removal process unless an objection has been received.”

I was curious as to why it was being removed, so I dug around and found a decision from three years ago from the Christchurch District Licensing Committee that may provide some clues. And “Decision No. 60B [2017] 1102” makes for interesting reading.

I will summarise as best I can. It appears Andrew Thorn was the sole director of Vodka Plus. He claimed people were being vindictive against him, and that all he wanted to do was set up an online store to sell alcohol.

“Andrew Thorn gave evidence on behalf of the company as the sole director and owner of Vodka Plus Limited and described himself as the CEO of the company for all of New Zealand.

He was not represented by Counsel and read an opening statement to the Committee. This was brief and he said that he had been going through a rough time and people known to him had been vindictive. VPL was going to be selling a premium grade RTD via a remote website based business.”

But there were a few problems with his application to sell booze. Some of them were little things. It was pointed out that he’d put his address on the application form, but it turns out it wasn’t his address, it was his parent’s house:

“The applicant was asked questions concerning the address on the application form, as to the location of the licensed premises. He replied that it was his mother and father’s address but he does not live there. When questioned why he had put this address he replied that as this was going to be a total internet operation all the transactions would be automated through a website. For that reason he did not see that a physical address was important to the application.”

To get a liquor licence, as well as a home address, you need a valid bar manager. So Andrew Thorn claimed he had one: Kristin Thomson.

The Inspector opened her cross examination by asking the applicant [Andrew Thorn] who Kristin Thomson was. This person was listed on the application as the sole holder of a general manager’s certificate. It was put to the applicant ‘did he know this person and if so what was the person’s sex’. Mr Thorn replied ‘she is a female’.

But there was a problem with this story.

The Inspector put to him that she had rung the person Kristin Thomson and had found out that in fact Kristin is a male. The applicant was asked how he got this person’s name and he said he was given the details including the manager’s certificate number by a friend of the family but had never met Kristin.

Things were not looking good for the future of Vodka Plus trading online.

Police also gave some other evidence in the case, including a clanger where Thorn was alleged to have skipped out on paying for some diesel at a gas station.

“The constable on the 18 July 2016 rang and spoke to Mr Thorn, who said he had already paid for the diesel. The constable then checked with the service station to be told the diesel had not been paid for […] The constable informed him prosecution would be considered if not paid.

Again on a later date […] he was spoken to by the Police on unrelated matters and when questioned about the diesel it had still not been paid for. He then admitted the theft of the diesel and he told police that if he was given a warning he would make prompt payment. On the same date the diesel was paid and this was confirmed by the service station and no charges were laid.

Anyway, at the end of the hearing, Andrew Thorn didn’t get his application to sell alcohol.

“After hearing all the evidence on the balance of probabilities is of the view that this application should be declined. Mr Thorn as sole director of Vodka Plus Limited has shown himself to be unsuitable to be the holder of a section 40, Off-licence.”


We don’t control the wind.

From there, it appears Andrew got into the events game, with a new company called Silverback Events.

Events were varied with names likes “Dash for Cash”. Dashing for cash seems to be a recurring theme at his events.

But Andrew had a dream. A bigger, louder dream. And he moved into promoting music events.

He came under fire towards the end of 2018 by putting some kind of dance party on in Christchurch’s “Red Zone”, the area affected by the Christchurch earthquakes. The event featured “DJs from New Zealand and across the world as well as flame dancers and a laser show.

According to reports, it was very noisy which annoyed some locals who lived nearby:

Silverback Events event manager Andrew Thorn said the event was a huge success, but he acknowledged there had been noise complaints.

He said he had been in regular contact with noise control throughout the night. The noise limit was breached by a small amount but they adjusted the speakers and turned down the bass accordingly, Thorn said.

“We don’t control the wind.”

The following year, this advertisement popped up for another music event. The promo video for a DJ called Anger Fist is truly stressful, and resembles some kind of angry flashmob.

But Andrew had clearly got a taste for music events, and this year he was set to put on his biggest yet.


“We do a lot, per se, in the shadows.”

Future Rock Fest was set to be big. It was to take place in February 2020 at Spark Arena, which is the place you play in New Zealand if you are big. Rihanna has played there. Guns n’ Roses. Fleetwood Mac. You get the idea.

And now Andrew Thorn’s Silverback Events was set to pull off something truly huge.

New Zealand music journalist Chris Schulz was covering it at the time, and he’s resurrected an interview he did with Andrew Thorn that was never published. Chris has written about this experience at The Boiler Room — and I suggest you check it out (it’s a great pop culture newsletter).

Chris had gotten in touch with Andrew at the time because despite a big song and dance, Future Rock Fest never took place. Chris wanted to know why.

And Chris’ conversation with Andrew is something quite special. As I read it I heard narratives and explanations slipping and sliding around like jelly, and I kept thinking of Andrew’s explanations to the media this week about what the fuck happened at that $100,000 cash drop.


The Future Rock Fest interview.

CHRIS SCHULZ: I just wanted to talk to you about Future Rock Fest. Did you have anything to do with that?

ANDREW THORN: Ahh we do, and did, yep.

What happened? Did it go ahead?

Nah. So, long story short, we’re still negotiating with pretty big players. The whole festival was going to be pushed out for New Year’s. So the situation… is that the Facebook event got locked out by the dates, so the dates couldn’t be changed. So, one would say, we’ve been trying to communicate with Facebook to say, ‘Hey, let us action and edit the event’. At this moment [we’ve had] no reply. It will be nice when we get that re-done, and then obviously the event will be pushed out to a New Year’s festival, and then game on. The line-up will be released in the next couple of months.

New Year’s next year? Or 2020?

2020, that’s the date, only because we were going to aim for a March event, just because we’ve been negotiating with two large parties, we’ve got one over the line, the other we guarantee we will. It’s just like, nup, let’s lock it in for New Year’s.

Did anyone show up on Saturday night? Did you have anyone asking what happened?

No. We actually had a lot more people saying, ‘Where can we get some more tickets?’ But obviously the event page was set up so they could only register, not actually get physical hard copy tickets.

So you haven’t sold tickets yet?

No, absolutely not. The event page would have changed as soon as we released the line-up, then we give them access to actually be able to buy hard copy tickets, or e-tickets, etc. We made sure that no one could pre-order anything.

What kind of festival are we looking at it? What kind of bands, what kind of line-up?

I can’t tell you the line-up but I can tell you there are going to be three genres, three stages. We will do a media release… we’re really aiming for a two-day festival with a seven-day tourism aspect of the whole event. We’re looking at hosting it in Mackenzie Country. I don’t know if you know New Zealand very well.

The event page says Spark Arena in Auckland?

Yeah. Disregard that. It’s all going to be changed. Spark Arena’s just sitting there because it’s the capacity of people. So the rock festival’s going to be inclusive of two other stages, two other genres. There’s going to be camping for about seven days, three days before there’s a whole tourism aspect, people can go around… Queenstown, Wanaka, do stargazing, tree-planting, all sorts of stuff.

Right.

Then there’s two days of festival, and then two days after the festival they can carry on and still do other tourism activators. So really the festival’s not just a pump and dump, as we call it, where people literally just turn up, promoters spend hundreds of thousands, and just leave the community behind. We really want to embed ourselves and keep it rolling for years.

Tell me about some of the other events you’ve got on your website. There’s a bunch of things: there are car rallies, and there’s a jet ski thing...

Yep, those are all pre-done, event management plans are in place. We’re just, at the moment, bidding and tendering for the majority of those series to come to New Zealand. Putting our money where our mouth is, negotiating with those overseas parties, and really trying to lock them in and say, ‘Look, the jet ski series should be hosted in New Zealand.

What have you put on so far?

A few things. We put a hard-style DJ, Angerfist, last year which was really just to help out that smaller niche genre because they don’t really get much love. We obviously did a festival in Christchurch with a three-week marketing campaign. That was in the Christchurch Red Zone. So that was derelict land. That was a case study really of the bureaucracy around events in New Zealand and to find our feet as such.

I see some of the events have tickets for sale. There’s one in Tauranga that has tickets for sale for $5000.

Which one are you looking at mate?

“Tauranga 19” I think it’s called.

Nah it won’t be called that. Are you talking about Opulence? You’re probably looking at the super yachts. Networking for high end parties.

You’re doing a bunch of different stuff - you’ve obviously got big dreams?

I wouldn’t say dreams. We’ve got ambitions. We’re backed by a private investment fund. We own about 12 other companies, so we’re not just an event promoter, we also own commercial construction companies, and obviously have our own alcohol brand and quite a few things. Events really just slot in with the whole entire eco-system.

Where are you based?

Auckland, Melbourne and Christchurch.

Oh, you’re all over the place.

I bounce around a bit.

With Future Rock Fest, when you announced it for Auckland, did you have a venue locked in, did you have headliners locked in, was anything locked in?

No, it was purely organic.

Right. Okay. Alright.

We believe, when we go full noise… we’re taking quite a different approach in regards to how festivals are.

In what way?

In New Zealand, we’ll advertise it as a festival. Overseas, we’ll be releasing all our marketing as a tourism hot spot. People will come and spend New Year’s in New Zealand because of New Zealand, not because, per se, of the headliners playing music.

Are people buying tickets through your website currently?

You’d hope not because there’s nothing I believe that should be available. Everything should be, ‘time to be determined,’ or, ‘venue to be determined’.

There are tickets available for most of the events on there. You can buy them through PayPal.

I’m just having a look, because obviously I’m more on the top end, and I’ll talk to the operations team, but if they did buy them they’d be instantly refunded. It wouldn't make sense either if you’re buying a ticket to something where you don't know what time it is or where the venue is.

Yeah, right, okay.

We’ll have a look at that. It’s quite easily blocked. I wouldn’t expect many people would go to our website. As I said, we’re a pretty undercover operator. We do a lot, per se, in the shadows. That’s why we’re doing the prep for the festival. It’s a huge undertaking.

When are you looking to make all of this live?

Within the next eight weeks.

Everything on that website you want to have launched and be selling tickets for in the next eight weeks?

No. The Rigs & Kids, that probably will have to be pushed ... we were trying to do … look at boys with… um… what are they called?… big toys. What is it called?

Big Boys Toys?

We’re looking to try and partner up with them. Haven’t even had that discussion yet, that boat may have sailed, but we want to do a similar concept but a wee bit different as well. Opulence, that would easily happen, it's whenever I feel like pulling the trigger. It’s a boat called Ghost II , from Melbourne to Sydney, it can host 80 to 150 people. You don’t need big lead ups for that sort of stuff.

I was interested in Future Rock Fest. Are you okay if I write a story saying it’s planned for later in the year?

Yeah, absolutely, I would appreciate the content being sent to me to make sure we can add further comment.

No, that’s not something I can do and have never done, sorry dude.

Well I don’t personally mind but if you say something wrong I’ll quite happily instruct my barristers and QCs real quick. We’re a private investment fund and if we get misconstrued or you say the wrong thing, well, that will be that. It would be in everyone’s interest if you’re going to write a simple article about a generic music event coming up… you would have thought you’d send it to us.

That’s not how journalists operate, at all.

It depends. I know how journalists operate. I deal with them regularly. If it’s a civil matter or criminal, or a bit of hype on something, sure. You’re writing about a music event. I don’t know why you wouldn’t send that to someone to proof.

It’s just policy. You’ll find that with every single journalist, every newspaper in New Zealand, no one sends out stories for approval.

I can re-correct you right now, I get drafts all the time. Regularly. Trust me.

I’ve done this for 15 years and I’ve never, ever sent anyone proofs.

Bizarre.

So what should I call you, what’s your title?

Whatever I want it to be.


“Will sue. Talk later.”

I found the interview with Andrew Thorn really fascinating. There’s a lot there, but I guess my takeaways are:

  • Andrew’s events company (its website is down) sure did have big dreams. Jet skis to tree planting; stargazing to super yachts.

  • This exchange:

    Are people buying tickets through your website currently?
    You’d hope not because there’s nothing I believe that should be available. Everything should be, ‘time to be determined,’ or, ‘venue to be determined’.

    There are tickets available for most of the events on there. You can buy them through PayPal.
    I’m just having a look, because obviously I’m more on the top end, and I’ll talk to the operations team.

  • I still don’t quite understand what Silverback Events does? Or doesn’t do?

  • This line “We do a lot, per se, in the shadows” which instantly just made me think of the TV show What We Do In The Shadows because what the hell else am I going to think about.

  • I can re-correct you right now, I get drafts all the time. Regularly. Trust me.” Um — Chris was correct — journalists do not send copy to talent for approval.

  • Andrew talks about being “a private investment fund” which I assume is Greenback Capital, which is just another in the long list of Andrew Thorn owned businesses — with no profile as a fund and no real evidence of operation beyond being the holding company for his assorted ventures (including The Safety Warehouse and Vodka Plus).

  • How quickly did that pivot to legal threats at the end there? “I’ll quite happily instruct my barristers and QCs real quick. We’re a private investment fund and if we get misconstrued or you say the wrong thing, well, that will be that.” That would have been stewing in this mind the whole interview — and then it came out. Brilliant.

  • With that in mind, I’ve never had someone threaten to sue me during an interview about a music festival. D-e-a-d.

Which actually reminded me of why I blocked Andrew on Instagram yesterday.

This was his last message to me:

Which to his credit, is a pretty baller phrase: “Will sue. Talk later”.


Thanks for being here, wonderful Webworm reader. I hope this isn’t all about to go off the rails.

In all seriousness, your support — as always — is appreciated. Tell your friends about my work, I guess? Share this around.

I don’t want to get too earnest or lofty, but a big part of what drives my work is that I’m just so tired of people who are dishonest and privileged; who move from one dodgy endeavour to the next with perceived invincibility. Whether I’m writing about an antique store that’s gone clamp mad, or diving into deranged QAnon beliefs, or making a film about a ticking kingpin — it all comes back to one thing: I really dislike bullies.

I know there are good humans out there. I know it. In the meantime, my feelings about this week are reflected in my nails.

David.