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Christchurch Harcourts franchises Grenadier and Phoenix merge

finance_calculations.jpgTwo well-known Christchurch real estate companies have merged.

Grenadier Real Estate Ltd, which has several offices in Canterbury, has bought 50 per cent of Riccarton-based Phoenix Real Estate Ltd. Both companies are Harcourts franchises.

The merger comes in the wake of controversy surrounding former Phoenix employee, Christopher Heaps, who fled the country leaving behind a trail of angry people owed more than $150,000 by his precious metal trading business.

Phoenix's principal shareholder Bruce Lindsay said the issues involving Heaps played no part in the decision to merge with Grenadier.

He had thought about selling shares in the single office real estate business for several years.

A recent health issue, which resulted in a heart operation, was the catalyst for the deal, Lindsay said.

"This made me re evaluate future options to minimise pressure of running a successful real estate business."

The merger with a larger Harcourts franchise made "strong economic sense" in a "highly competitive real estate marketplace", he said.

It would provide "strength, support and growth for the business moving forward".

The Phoenix brand would cease to exist.

Lindsay said several of the company's staff had joined other Harcourts franchises recently, but it would be "inappropriate" to discuss why.

Police are investigating 10 fraud complaints involving more than $150,000 against Heaps' web-based business Kiwi Bullion, which traded gold, silver and platinum.

The victims, who live around New Zealand, handed over money or precious metals to the business, but in some cases did not receive anything in return.

Heaps flew to Vietnam in July. He was booked to return to New Zealand on a flight last week, but never boarded the plane.

Heaps has convictions for cultivating cannabis, possession of methamphetamine and unlawful possession of firearms.

He was adjudged bankrupt for the second time in less than a decade last month, after one of the fraud complainants issued proceedings against him.

Last month, Lindsay said he would not have employed Heaps as a real estate salesperson in 2010 if he had known about his history "to the extent I know about it now".

He had taken it "on face value" that the Real Estate Agents Authority (REAA) had done its "homework" when approving Heaps' licence.

Two days later it emerged Lindsay knew about about Heaps' criminal history before taking him on and had written a letter of support to the REAA outlining how he would be supervised.

On Friday, Lindsay said he "genuinely believed" that he was being "transparent . . . according to my recall" when he made the initial statement and did not do anything to "deliberately mislead".

He described Heaps' previous convictions as "minor" and "historic". There were no complaints made to the REAA about him while he worked for Phoenix.

Heaps' contract with Phoenix was terminated in August and his real estate salesperson licence expired last month
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