SPCK/SSG: My Story, by Phil Groom

A facebook friend said she was having difficulties getting her head around the chaos so I offered this as a brief summary. Very much a personal perspective, of course: feel free to cite and publish elsewhere at will, but please be sure to include a link to this page as the original source. Thank you.

SPCK SSG: My Story

by Phil Groom

A brief overview here:

http://spckssg.wordpress.com/about/

Essentially, back in 2006 the SPCK bookshops ran into financial difficulties and were looking for a way out. A proposed merger with Wesley Owen fell through and the St Stephen the Great Trust (SSG) — owned and operated by Messrs Mark and Philip Brewer — stepped in and offered to take on the business. SPCK breathed a huge sigh of relief and handed the bookshops over, lock, stock and barrel.

The Brewers then started screwing people’s contracts around, trying to impose new terms of employment that didn’t comply with UK employment law. They also started to narrow down the range of stock and stopped paying their suppliers. The best account describing how the bottom fell out of the business is probably this letter from Tom Arthur, minister of the URC church in Cardiff which provided a home for SPCK some years ago when they were no longer able to pay city rents:

http://www.pcusa.org/missionconnections/letters/arthurt/arthurt_0806.htm

Eventually, this year (2008), SSG filed for bankruptcy in the USA, a somewhat bizarre twist for a UK based company and charity:  staff were sent a round-robin email to tell them that they were all unemployed but they could apply for jobs with a new company called “ENC Management Company”, which was soon discovered to also belong to the Brewers. In one fell swoop they’d managed to transfer the ownership of the shops and stock to another company owned by themselves but, it seemed, managed to leave all their debts and employees behind… quite some trail of destruction that left staff in a state of absolute despair. In Worcester, tragically, the situation got so bad that the former shop manager committed suicide:

http://spckssg.wordpress.com/2008/07/07/steve-jeynes-a-life-remembered/

Dave Walker and myself had each been independently reporting on the story on our websites and this year I set up a separate, dedicated blog to allow for more focused reporting and discussions. Unfortunately the Brewers didn’t like people talking about the way they were running things etc so they decided to try and nail us down by sending out ‘Cease and Desist’ (C&D) messages threatening legal action if we didn’t take down our websites.

Dave complied. I didn’t: I was on holiday so couldn’t do anything anyway. I got back from holiday to find the C&D’s waiting for me, thought about it for a couple of days and decided to join forces with other outraged bloggers fighting back. I was particularly riled because one of the pages he’d demanded I take down was a page I’d set up to raise funds to support the booksellers; and got even more riled when I realised that in bullying Dave Walker to take down his pages, Brewer had killed off a page of tributes to the guy from Worcester.

So now there’s me and any number of other bloggers revealing the truth about the Brewers… we’re still awaiting a response from the Brewers but in the meantime I want to see it shouted from the rooftops, across facebook, across the world. I want to see a retraction of his take-down demands; to see his employees paid the wages and pension contributions that are due to them; and I want to see Dave’s lost posts restored. Let the world know that the truth will not be silenced by bullying lawyers in Texas.

It’d be kinda nice to get an apology for the false allegations he’s made about me as well, but that’s another story.

Thanks for reading. Hope that makes a bit more sense of it for you.

All the best,

Phil

19 responses to “SPCK/SSG: My Story, by Phil Groom

  1. thanks Phil. really useful to have a summary like that.

  2. Pauline Edwards

    Good on you Phil, I’m standing right beside you, you know by now, I have got a big mouth. I will keep on going. This is one fight, I will win, the Brewers didn’t know who they were taking on, when they employed me, I am not a quiet Christian women. I have been on the telly a few times fighting about things I didn’t agree with, and I got my way. Losing is not an option, we will win this fight.

  3. Thanks for this Phil, this has been a very sad debacle from start to finish…………….i dunno what else to say, i blogged the Dave story and will follow up with some more over the next few days

    Bless you man
    ally

  4. Thanks Phil. Today a few friends were mulling over the role of the SPCK trustees in this debacle. I don’t want to sound bitter but the trustees – those in whom we have put our trust – have let us down badly. Whilst we don’t want to exonerate SSG we have to tell the Bishop of Gloucester and his trustess that it’s not good enough to have their names on an esteemed charity’s list of trustees. It might look good on their CV’S but we booksellers know better.

  5. Pauline Edwards

    GUESS WHAT everyone, that fellow worker, has been payed today. Maybe Mr Brewer read the blog I posted, and realised He had put that fellow worker in a mess with the mortgage. He does have a heart after all. He still hasn’t payed me though.

  6. Pauline Edwards

    Once again, THANK YOU Mr Brewer, I have spoken to Tammy, you have made her a very happy girl. I mean it THANK YOU. She is a great girl, and you have took a great weight off her shoulders!!!

  7. Fantastic news, Pauline: thanks for letting us know.

    J Mark Brewer, thank you: carry on like this and I’ll gladly sing your praises rather than take you to task.

    Regret to advise that I’m going to be offline for a while now… major hard drive failure. Posting this from elsewhere; off out to buy a new computer tomorrow…

  8. For anyone who hasn’t quite noticed yet, I’m now back online. Have managed to salvage most data from back ups etc but emails sent to any of my non-gmail addresses during the period 14th July – 8th August 2008 have been lost. If you sent any important messages during that period, please send them again.

    Thank you.

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  15. Mr N Blakemore

    Dear Sir
    My name is Mr Nigle Blakemore and i am writing because i did some decorating on the 27th of january 2009 to the 30th of january 2009 it has been a month now since i have not received my cheque.

    the decorating i had done for , ENC SHOP MANAGMENT COMPANY SP1 2PE salisbury ST Johns Street.
    was finished on the 30th of January, i gave the shop assisent whos name is Val an invoice on the 5th of February 2009 , she has told me that she sent the invoice off to you in Bradford because you were the main ofice but she would not give me your phone number so that i could get in touch with you on this matter. plaese could you help me sort this matter out .

    many thanks
    yours sincerely

    Mr Nigel Blakemore

  16. Thanks for copying us in on your message, Nigel — presumably you’ve sent this to the Bradford shop? If not, you’ll find their contact details on their website here, Third Space Books – Bradford, but it might be worth contacting J Mark Brewer directly via his office in Texas: Brewer & Pritchard – Contact Us.

    Sadly, you are but one of many victims of J Mark and Philip W Brewer’s tendency not to pay those who work for them and I’m sorry to learn that you’ve had to find out about that the hard way.

    I suspect that the only way anyone can be sure of being paid by these guys is to insist on full payment in advance; or in your case, having already done the work, to seek legal advice: your local Citizens Advice Bureau might be a good place to start. It might also be worth contacting your local paper: sometimes public embarrassment seems to work. Would the Salisbury Journal be interested in your story?

  17. Pingback: Letter from a Decorator « SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info

  18. hi there
    just curious do you have relatives in south africa.?
    My name is deleen groom, i have a cousin for is also philip groom.
    he works for Daimler chrysler here in s.a.
    maybe i am just looking for relatives…..

    who knows we might just be related.

    see ya.
    deleen

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