Sinclair ZX Spectrum retro console project turns ugly following alleged management spat

A crowdfunding campaign set up to develop a portable version of the classic Sinclair ZX Spectrum is in turmoil after a management dispute.

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum Vega+ Console – backed by Sir Clive Sinclair himself and marketed by a firm called Retro Computers – has so far raised more than £400,000 on Indiegogo

A prototype has been built and the first Vega+ consoles are set to ship in late summer. However, this Eurogamer report from mid-July claims that distribution firm Cornerstone Media, is behind national sales of the Vega and has ‘terminated’ the contract between itself and Retro Computers.

Cornerstone has apparently become aware of "issues and disputes" within Retro Computers, including a falling out between managers.

Two directors – Chris Smith and Paul Andrews – left Retro Computers in April due to "irreconcilable differences" between them and the last remaining director, David Levy.

Now Smith and Andrews have put out a statement distancing themselves from Retro Computers, to make it clear to fans and backers of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum Vega+ Console that they are no longer part of that team. They say they still regularly receive queries from backers.

Retro Computers have since accused the pair of ‘developing a rival product’, according to a BBC article.

A separate Retro Games Ltd website is registered to Andrews, advertising a computer and portable device called The 64 (based on the original Commodore 64).

Retro Computers’ chairman David Levy has sent a statement to PCR, stating Retro Computers has issued legal proceedings to "recover company funds that are unaccounted for".

The situation is complicated further, as both Smith and Andrews still retain a joint 50 per cent shareholding in Retro Computers.

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum Vega+ Console costs £100, and is being manufactured by SMS Electronics Ltd of Nottinghamshire. 

PCR has published statements from both parties below for clarity.

Statement from former Retro Computers directors Chris Smith and Paul Andrews

"In recent weeks Andrews and Smith have received increasing numbers of emails addressed to them, from public backers of the Vega+ console, and members of the press with questions relating to the production status of the Vega+.

"As a result of these enquiries received and their concern for the backers of the project, several weeks ago Smith and Andrews (via their solicitors), posed multiple questions to the current directors of Retro Computers Ltd (through their solicitors), including as to the status of the proposed Vega+ project (preparation, software, production, time scales, etc.) and also the financial resources of the company to meet the expected costs of development and production, and so on.

"Sadly Retro Computers Ltd has failed to respond at all to these requests (or indeed to earlier similar requests) and have not provided any information or answers to Andrews and Smith. Andrews and Smith therefore feel they have no choice but to publicly distance themselves from Retro Computers Ltd, and make it very clear that as they have no knowledge, control or say, in anything that has happened in the company since they resigned on April 8th 2016, they are unable to answer any questions relating to the company or its projects.

"They therefore regretfully ask enquirers to contact Retro Computers Ltd directly for any questions and queries on the Vega+ console. As Andrews and Smith are involved in ongoing unrelated legal matters against Retro Computers Ltd, they such cannot currently comment further beyond this press release."

Statement from David Levy, chairman of Retro Computers

"Our company, Retro Computers Limited is the developer and manufacturer of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum Vega games consoles.

"The most important thing I would like to say is that the current team at Retro Computers Ltd has been and is focusing its efforts on the completion of new and better software for its forthcoming product, the Vega+, and is making every effort, supported by the factory, to deliver the first production run of the Vega+ by the end of next month, as originally planned. 

"I would not normally comment on such matters but given that this is the third factually inaccurate statement being released to media by Paul Andrews and Chris Smith and or their associates, purporting to distance themselves from the Vega Project(s) we seek to clarify the misinformation and we are grateful for our right to reply. 

"Following advice from our legal and financial advisors we can also confirm that the current management at Retro Computers limited have issued legal proceedings to recover company funds that are unaccounted for whilst the company was under the sole financial management of Paul Andrews, as MD and Chris Smith, as CTO, this matter has been in the hands of our solicitors for sometime.

"On April 8th 2016 two of the shareholders/directors of the company, Paul Andrews and Chris Smith, resigned as directors. Their resignation followed the revelation that they intended to attempt to raise money for the development and manufacture of a rival product, namely a retro version of the Commodore 64 computer ­ The64. I perceived their intentions as putting them in a conflict of interest¹s situation, contrary to Section 25 of the Companies Act 2006.

"The 64 Project, which failed to reach its crowdfunding target, is allegedly being produced by an almost identically named company Retro Games Limited, a company incorporated on 16th August, 2015 by Paul Andrews as its sole director and of which Smith and Andrews are jointly 50 per cent shareholder. At the time of its incorporation and for some eight months thereafter its address and phone number were identical to Retro Computers Limited. 

"Since their resignation, and despite the fact that each of them remains a 25 per cent shareholder in Retro Computers Ltd, Andrews and Smith have acted in various ways that can perhaps be best described as a campaign of non co-operation and attempted destabilisation of the company. This campaign includes the failure to hand over to the company and its new management team various important legally require company records and documents and technical information that are needed for smooth company operation.

"Shortly after their resignations, the new management team of Retro Computers Limited asked Mr Andrews and Mr Smith to explain a number of financial transactions which took place while Andrews was MD of the company Mr Andrews and Mr Smith have both refused to provide any of this information.

"The company’s investigations into these financial irregularities have made considerable progress but are still ongoing, and on the advice of our lawyers we will not comment further on those matters at the present time.

"I can however confirm that the current management at Retro Computers limited have issued legal proceedings to recover funds and this is a matter, which has been in the hands of our solicitors for some time.

"I believe that their actions are aimed at destabilizing the company in order to make it difficult for the company to take the appropriate legal action in relation to financial irregularities."

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