Robbie Fowler’s name is as synonymous with bricks and mortar as it is with the City of Liverpool and the Lord above – a.k.a. God. It’s estimated former striker owns around 100 properties between the Oldham and Liverpool area and despite a playing career characterised by steady decline from the age of 20, his buy-to-let empire ensures he remains near the top of football’s rich lists.
For the past few years Florida-based company, Legacy Alliance Education, have been running the Robbie Fowler Property Academy. So with my own aspirations of becoming a land baron in the post-industrial Northwest of England, I took an afternoon out to attend the FREE Robbie Fowler Property Academy Workshop.
The event took place in a conference room in the basement of a central London hotel and our instructor was quick to let us know that we wouldn’t be graced by God’s presence.
“Robbie can’t be here today so I’m running the workshop for him,” explained a no-nonsense middle-aged woman from Essex. Without dwelling on the disappointing news, she launched into a potted history of her own life – a tale encompassing marriage, a messy divorce and a duplicitous French lover called Jean-Claude. All of which had led to her investing in property and now being in a position to never have to work again.
Given such enviable financial status, you might ask why she would spend a Tuesday afternoon doling out advice in a windowless conference room. Because of a passion for singing was her pre-emptive response. Delivering Robbie’s workshops had given our instructor the confidence to stand up in front of groups of people, be that to perform a jazz standard (a hobby she now pursued in her bountiful free time) or extoll the virtues of property investment.
But enough of that jazz. We were here to learn, and lesson one for the day was that to make a profit on any property purchase we needed to find ‘motivated sellers’. These are people looking for a quick sale owing to the urgency of their circumstances. Examples given included those suffering from sickness, going through a divorce or who have lost their job.
“Who would like those people to be calling you? Raise your hand.” A surprisingly large number of hands went up. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to cover exactly how to get these unfortunate souls dialling us up, but the three-day course costing £997 would explain everything.
Having those who are down on their luck calling you to sell their property on the cheap is all well and good, but you still need money to buy, right? Wrong. You don’t need your own money, what you need is OPM – a handy little acronym standing for Other People’s Money. This could be anything from bridging loans to credit cards – the key point being that the cash doesn’t need to come out of your own back pocket. Again, we didn’t have time to go through practicalities or the potential legal implications of using credit cards to buy property, but the details would be covered in the three-day £997 course.
We were, however, given the example of ‘Alex’, a student from Glasgow who attended the three-day course and subsequently went from being £10k in debt to owning over 100 properties in three years. Unfortunately, Alex wasn’t in attendance to explain the specifics of his remarkable feat.
Throughout the afternoon our instructor consistently drilled home that to get rich we must think like the wealthy. We have been programmed from a young age, she explained. You go to school, then you get a job, then you get a house, a pension and finally you retire. But it doesn’t have to be like this, we are working off of preconditioning that forces us to believe this is the only way. “Mindset,” it turns out, “is the main reason why people aren’t financially free.”
To help emancipate us from the shackles of our limiting beliefs, a rollcall of suggested self-help reading was offered during the day. First up was Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, who co-authored a book with Donald Trump in 2006, and just so happens to have his Rich Dad® Education Inc. training seminars and conferences run by Legacy Alliance Education. Also recommended were The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Steven Cowey and The Richest Man in Babylon by George S Clason.
From there we moved onto Tony Robbins’ Awaken the Giant Within, and last, but by no means least, Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret. Described by our tutor as a process of visualisation, manifestation and energy, but as ‘staggering bullshit’ by others, we were even shown the pictures she had cut out and placed on a poster above her bed to aid the process of imagining a future reality into existence. These included an Audi TT, a French chateau (no doubt far away from the double-dealing Jean-Claude) and M&S underwear model David Gandy.
Alongside the curious self-help bent were a series of suggested investment strategies of questionable validity. The main premise was to buy for less than market value, renovate the property, remortgage to release the equity and use these funds to repeat the process. No mention was given of the risks of potentially dangerous levels of borrowing, the acute impact of interest rate changes at such high gearing, or that the exponential growth in house prices seen over the past 30 years might one day come to an end.
“Robbie is inviting you to another session,” said our instructor. To learn the detail underpinning the suggested strategies we would need to attend the three-day £997 course. “And if you’ve been working for years and don’t have £997 for this course then you probably need it more than anyone,” explained our instructor.
Legacy Alliance Education, formerly known as Tigrent, runs the Robbie Fowler Property Academy and describes itself as, “The UK’s most respected provider of professional training programmes.”
Online reviews paint a mixed picture of their courses, with many claiming the 3-day course itself is a hard sell forum for further, more expensive courses.
“The "three day all you need to know about properties seminar" was not all you need to know about properties and around 40% of the time was spent advertising more advanced courses to really learn the content they covered. These courses advertised on average cost around £20,000 pounds and some exceeding £35,000 to learn property investment. I do not recommend their courses unless you have £20,000 to invest. Disappointing service that leads you on I would say. I would not trust their service.”
“BEWARE!! This company Tigrent Learning is a scam. They use basic details and stories that you could pull off google to get you interested in their courses and then the 3 day course of 1000 and the "free" tablet worth only 50 but they pretend it is worth 500 is a pure hard selling weekend…. all they are concerned about and talk about is trying to get you on these 10k - 15k courses!!! It was the most uncomfortable thing I have ever witnessed in my life. Anyone with half a brain would know that 10k for a course that offers no guarantee or any recognized qualification at the end of it is NOT WORTH even 10!!! DO NOT SIGN UP TO THE 3 DAY TIGRENT COURSE AT ALL COSTS.”
Legacy Alliance Education’s own website sets out the route their courses typically follow: “Students often begin their journey to financial freedom at one of our FREE Workshops. They can then continue with a 3-Day Training followed by our Elite Training programs.”
Testimonials on the company’s website strike a more positive tone than those found elsewhere:
“Built up a portfolio of just under £2m in a year from distressed and repossessed property. I kept talking about property. My wife cut out an advert from a local paper and made me call. I have not looked back. Helped me go from my own single property to 19 properties in 13 months.”
The financial advice offered at Robbie Fowler Property Academy Workshop seemed at best questionable and at worst potentially dangerous. Legacy Alliance Education use the crude association between Robbie Fowler’s name and property to entice people to their events, which appear to be a generic course run under various celebrity-endorsed brand names – most recently former Olympians Steve Backley and Roger Black.
Despite promoting events through a series of online videos, Robbie Fowler seemingly has little direct involvement. The fact is he has confessed to not being particularly closely involved with his own property portfolio, with wife Kerrie running the operation: “I’m not embarrassed to admit this, it’s my wife who’s the one who has been wearing the trousers,” said the Liverpool legend. “She’s the boss.”
If you’re looking to emulate Robbie Fowler’s but-to-let empire, you’re probably best off steering clear of his property academy. Put your £997 towards a deposit in Oldham, it’s likely to go a lot further.