This is insane. It is actually upsetting that this was all happening and the information couldn't really get out there due to NDAs and moderation.
One person told TWIP:
“So what went wrong? Mr Andrew Sebastian Heighway (quite appropriate that his initials spell ASH because that’s all that remains of his ‘successful’ company) and a catalogue of catastrophic business decisions. Andrew just couldn’t stop spending money on completely unnecessary and useless things – a CNC machine (never used), packing machines (hardly used), injection moulding machine (never used), 2 commercial ice drink machines from the US (never used), a flat bed printer (hardly used). He wanted everything done in-house against the advice of everyone.
And he leased brand new pinball games – WOZ, Whoa Nellie and the Walking Dead, that were later sold but the leases not paid off. He also leased ridiculously expensive office equipment and a brand new VW van (a cheap 2nd hand van would’ve been more than adequate). He hired more staff at a time when we didn’t have enough work for them to do, so they sat around getting paid to do nothing. He then decided to move to a much larger factory (only a third of it was ever used). Later we found out he’d not paid the rent on the previous property. And then again when we moved for a third time to Ebbw Value – leaving behind a mountain of unpaid bills. When the money pot was getting low he would call the investors with an ultimatum each time: “Give me more money or I close the business and you lose everything”. Foolishly they did, over and over. And when each investor was bled dry and refused to pay any more, Andrew would get new investors.
In the end I have no idea how many investors there were. Eventually his out of control spending emptied the account for staff salaries and there was a period of 2 months were no one was getting paid. He even asked members of staff for money to help save the company, from their personal savings. Many people left the company because of the wages situation. Money was nearly always paid in late or only half would go into staff accounts with a promise that the other half would follow. Moral in the company as far back as late 2013 was low. And it was clear at this point that the company had absolutely no chance of being a success while Andrew Heighway was in charge. He had to go. The investors were desperate to get him out a year before he eventually left. Andrew always made sure he was ok. He moved from a rented villa (with headed indoor pool) to a lavish 6 bedroom detached house. He bought a Porsche and always paid himself a very generous salary…with additional benefits. Then there were the licenses. We had issues with our first game Full Throttle. It had technical issues and incomplete code but Andrew wanted it out the door, with no manual, and no testing. Just get it out the door was his mentality. And before a single Full Throttle left the factory, he announced that he’d secured licences (at considerable expence) for Alien, Queen and Playboy. Which floored everyone at the company.
Then he announced Alien publicly soon after, with the clear intention of getting pre-order money to keep the company and his personal lifestyle going. Not a single penny of Alien pre-order money was ever spent on an Alien machine. Sales for Full Throttle were immediately effected by the Alien announcement as orders were cancelled and transferred to Alien instead, a game that Andrew promised would be ready in April 2015 – an insane timeline which pissed off Dennis Nordman and so he walked. Andrew was also completely clueless when it came to dealing with licenses. Alien for example was a complete cluster fuck from start to finish. Andrew had no idea what assets we could use from the film. We asked him can we use the actors? Signourney? Can we use the music, sound fx? He came back with I don’t know. And so a lot of time was wasted developing a game with assets we later couldn’t use. The US team – Aurich, Brian, Joe, Kelly and David, picked up the ball that the Wales team fumbled and ran with it. The success of Alien is entirely down to the US team. We all hated Playboy and absolutely no one, including the investors, wanted to make that game. A terrible idea but Andrew insisted and so 2 years were wasted developing that game. Which was later dropped with a significant loss of money. Barry Oursler was hired to work on the design of Playboy, Queen and a 3rd game. He was employed by the company and paid a monthly retaining fee.
But for 2 years he did very little and eventually left. Another unnecessary drain on the companies finances. Andrew also hired the cheapest people he could find for the company. No one, with the exception of Dennis Nordman and Barry Oursler, had any previous experience of building pinball machines. In fact most of the staff had no interest in pinball at all, including our Mechanical Engineer. There was no passion to drive the company forward. It was just a job for most of the employees. And that makes a big difference when compared to Stern or JJP were the entire team are passionate and driven. The cheapest possible parts were used in our games to increase the profit margin. Reliability was never a concern for Andrew, it was all about the money and raising his own profile. He just couldn’t see any further than the end of each week. He didn’t even consider the issues we’d have later when the machines were with customers and faults were being reported. This all seemed like a surprise to him and he was quick to blame his staff for everything that went wrong. Believing in his own crazy mind that our machines were perfect, no manuals were ever created or even planned. There was no support structure in the company at all, so calls and emails were mostly ignored. Communication with costumers was always appalling. We had no sales team, no customer service department. Andrew had no interest in customers once they paid their money.
Staff actually stepped up once Andrew was out to try and fix this but poor communication continued because the new investors didn’t put a Manager in place. Instead they tried to manage the business themselves from overseas, part time. Without a Manager, the company was leaderless and spiralling out of control. When the new investors took over they had a clear plan – to make 100 machines a month. What they didn’t know, because of Andrew’s bullshit, was that Alien wasn’t fit to be sold, it still needed months of development to fix all the issues. They were also hit with refund requests which drained all the the money they had set aside to manufacture Alien. At this point, they knew they had been duped but it was too late. Andrew was paid a substantial amount of money for selling a worthless company, heavily in debt. He was gone, laughing all the way to the bank. He wanted to prove something, maybe to make up for all his past failures (this isn’t Andrew’s only failed business and it won’t be his last). It’s clear to me he was only in it for the short term. His intention was to build up the company as fast as possible then sell it and walk away with some decent cash in his back pocket. Of course, the pinball community only ever saw the cheerful and passionate salesman and were happy to hand over their money.
I have to give him credit for his skill as a salesman; he sold a lemon to everyone – customers, staff, investors, distributors. A lesson learned by everyone: never, ever trust a salesman. On Friday 20th April, all staff were called in to work and officially made redundant. The week prior to this, all remaining staff had been packing up the factory in Ebbw Vale for closure. A handful of Alien machines were also finished and packed up in this time. The factory in Ebbw Vale is now empty. Assets (not owned by Heighway Pinball) have been moved to a new location. Heighway Pinball will be liquidated on 4th May. The new investors are planning to start a new company under a new name. What exactly they plan to do isn’t clear.”