Just weeks after The Real Deal published an investigation revealing ties between Bar Works and a British investor accused of running a Ponzi scheme, the co-working company continues to solicit money and open new locations. But the company has now scrubbed the name of its CEO from company documents after TRD raised questions about his identity.
Brochures and company documents now list managing director Franklin Kinard as the head of the company. Jonathan Black, principal and CEO as of Jan. 13, is no longer on shareholder correspondences. Bar Works did not respond to multiple emails from TRD asking why Black’s name was scrubbed. When reached by phone, Kinard said he had to catch a flight and hung up.
In correspondence with investors reviewed by TRD, however, Bar Works claimed replacing Black with Kinard was part of a standard restructuring of the company as it grows. Over the past month, the company has announced deals to open co-working spaces in Las Vegas, Miami, and in Chelsea.
The firm previously launched an investment program that sells securities tied to desk income at its spaces. Investors can buy individual workstations in Bar Works spaces for a minimum investment of $25,000, which Bar Works agrees to lease from them for 10 years at rates that rise each year. It promises annual returns for its Williamsburg location of 14 percent and up. In a brochure sent to investors in February, Bar Works claims to have raised $22.83 million through the program. But in some cases the securities have been paying off returns even as the spaces they were tied to weren’t opened yet, according to investors in the firm who spoke on condition of anonymity. Bar Works declined to comment on where the money to pay the returns came from.
Several online investment agencies continue to offer Bar Work’s securities. A representative for one agency, speaking on condition of anonymity, told TRD that he would continue to market the offering despite the Haddow connection because there was no proof Bar Works itself is a Ponzi scheme.
On Jan. 13, TRD published a report that showed extensive connections between Bar Works and Renwick Haddow, who has been accused of running a vast Ponzi scheme over commodities such as palm oil, platinum, diamonds, land and carbon credits. Haddow, who is being sued by U.K. authorities for allegedly misleading investors, went to great lengths to hide his involvement in the company, placing his wife as a co-founder under an assumed name.
TRD’s report also showed that Black’s Linkedin page uses someone else’s photo, and that there was no trace of any previous employment. Black corresponded with TRD solely via email and rebuffed several requests for a phone chat. People who have interacted with Bar Works told TRD they met Haddow, but never Black.
Bar Works did not respond to an email asking for evidence that Jonathan Black is a real person and not an alias. Unlike Black, Kinard appears in a video on the company’s website.
New York-based Bar Works runs co-working locations out of retail spaces that it also outfits with bars. It currently has four locations open (three in New York) and another seven set to open soon, according to its website.