Late last year, influencers converged on a luxury waterside hotel in Auckland for the launch party of a brash new alcohol brand: Let’s Go Beverages.

Let’s Go and its youthful director, Kody Jenkins, an Australian man in his early 20s, clearly wanted to make a splash.

According to Instagram videos taken by attendees, the party at the Park Hyatt featured caviar, free-flowing champagne, wagyu beef and fireworks. 

There was also a luxury car: a 2022 McLaren GT, in ingot black worth close to $400,000.

Guests posed for photographs in front of the supercar, which Let’s Go had ostensibly acquired to give away as part of a promotion, although the company admitted to BusinessDesk late yesterday that it did not yet own the car and would be finalising purchase in Auckland next Monday.

That would have been one day after the close of the competition, which had already been delayed once from Dec 25 to Jan 15, and was now to be delayed by a further fortnight.

“In view of the anticipated publicity from your story, Let’s Go Beverages is pleased to extend the timeframe for interested customers by one final period of 14 days. Entries are therefore open until 11.59pm on Sunday 29 January 2023,” Jenkins told BusinessDesk in a Friday evening email.

Customers who bought Let’s Go vodka, which retailed for $159 and came in a golden bottle, were meant to go in a draw to win the McLaren. However, a BusinessDesk investigation raised multiple red flags.

“It’s got Fyre Festival written all over it” was how one Auckland advertising expert described the situation, referring to the legendarily ill-fated music festival.

Trouble in Queensland

Jenkins was the sole listed director for Let’s Go Beverages, which was registered in New Zealand last August. 

However, another Queensland man, Daniel Klaus, was also involved. Klaus was listed as a director of a related company, Let’s Go Beverages Holdings, according to Australian company records. 

Jenkins was also listed as a director of the Aussie firm.

Last February, Klaus pleaded guilty to 16 charges in a Queensland magistrates court in relation to his former company, Viking Caravans & Campers, and its failure to supply caravans, which left customers thousands of dollars out of pocket. 

He and the company were ordered to pay more than half a million NZ dollars (AUD$460,000) in fines and compensation.

In a statement, Jenkins said Klaus's involvement in the Australian case had been dealt with and had “nothing to do with Let's Go Beverages or its promotion”.

While he wasn’t listed as a director of the NZ-registered Let’s Go company, sources have told BusinessDesk that Klaus was intimately involved in its operations and that he and Jenkins spent an extended period living at the Park Hyatt while based in Auckland.

The hotel declined formal comment although one person with knowledge of the pair said “everyone knows who they are because of what happened”, but offered no further explanation.

‘You and I totally need to get smashed’

Last October, Australian influencer and male model Jade Kevin Foster, who starred in the reality TV show Byron Baes, flew into Auckland.

He was there in partnership with Let’s Go to promote its McLaren competition.

In an Instagram video from the visit, Foster strutted in the rain holding an umbrella while talking to a friend on the phone.

“He cheated on you?” he can be heard saying. “What a dog! I can’t believe that. You and I totally need to get smashed, like right now.”

Foster, who had more than 1.2 million followers on Instagram, segued to Let’s Go vodka and the chance to win a “brand new, sexy black McLaren sports car”. 

Then he was in the car, which was parked at the Park Hyatt, revving the engine and laughing.

It was not clear if Foster attended the launch party at the hotel, but local social media personalities like Edna Swart, who starred in the reality TV show Boss Babes, did. The event was organised by Auckland PR firm Lily & Louis. 

Managing partner Jacqui Ansin declined to comment when approached by BusinessDesk.

So, about that McLaren

Videos and photos from the Let’s Go launch event showed Jenkins and Klaus had access to a 2022 McLaren GT in Auckland last year. 

The car was worth $395,000, according to the Let’s Go website, implying that the company needed to sell a minimum of 2,484 bottles to clear the cost of the car, let alone the cost of producing and distributing its new vodka.

The sports car was incredibly rare in NZ.

Just five 2022 McLaren GTs were registered here last year, according to Waka Kotahi data. The black ingot colour scheme was rarer still, BusinessDesk understood.

In its statement to BusinessDesk, LGB acknowledged “there may have been some confusion about the status of the McLaren”.   

LGB had “a written contract to purchase the vehicle late last year” but “a couple of administrative issues … meant that the car was listed for sale by the dealer”.   

“These have now been sorted out and we’re pleased to confirm that Let’s Go Beverages will be finalising the purchase on Monday to ensure the car can be given away.”

A spokesman at the official McLaren dealership in Auckland declined to comment on the Let’s Go promotion other than to say the dealership's black ingot car was still for sale.

A TradeMe listing advertising the car, which was put online more than a month ago, described it as a “one-off”. 

The terms and conditions for the Let’s Go promotion made it clear the car was in Auckland.

“The winner must arrange to pick up the prize from the Auckland-based location determined by the promoter and notified to the winner within fourteen days of being contacted by the promoter,” the website said.

“If the prize winner does not pick up the prize within that period their prize will be void and no compensation will be payable.”

The conditions also stated McLaren Automotive wasn’t involved in any way, although a more prominent section of the website said McLaren was an official partner.

In an emailed statement, Jenkins claimed that a number of unspecified assumptions by BusinessDesk were incorrect and raised the possibility of legal action.

Whose licence is it anyway?

Let’s Go Beverages was based in the Gold Coast, but it distributed alcohol made in NZ, according to its website. 

Most of the drinks listed for sale online were described as ‘coming soon’.

The website also linked to another company’s liquor licence.

A spokesman for that company, a small distillery BusinessDesk had agreed not to name, said they hadn’t given permission for Let’s Go to use their licence.

There were other quirks, too.

The phone number listed on Let’s Go’s Facebook page had a voicemail for Aussie Rapid Tests, a covid-19 testing company that at least one Let’s Go employee used to be involved in.

And the end date for the McLaren promotion appeared to have changed at least once before, internet records suggested. 

The competition terms and conditions said the promotion started on Sept 1. 

A countdown timer on the website was altered late yesterday from two days to 16 before the competition ended, allowing LGB to purchase the prize it did not yet own, prior to it being drawn.