Tag Archives: ENC Management Company

Changing the Locks?

David Keen writes:

On the grapevine yesterday….

“I have just been told that this morning the locks on the door of Newcastle shop have been changed, and a notice has been placed on the door by the Interim Managers re the Charity Commission investigation.”

Can anyone else confirm this? Is there any news from the other shops?

It would make sense, with the Charity Commissioners taking control of St. Stephen the Great assets. If true, it may also show that, as far as the CC is concerned, the change of name last year to ENC Management was a smoke and mirrors exercise designed to get SSG out of its financial obligations.

There is possibly another SSG asset parked near Durham Cathedral, so if you see this go up for auction in the name of the Charity Commissioners, please give generously.

Meanwhile if you see anyone fiddling with the locks on a former SPCK shop, please ask what they’re doing. If they represent the Charity Commissioners, then bless them loudly. If they try to disguise a Texan accent and have a van with the engine running parked outside, then be suspicious.

Pursuing the Brewers: Contact Info, Facts and Resources

Phil Groom writes:

An unpaid supplier has asked for contact information for the Brewers with a possible view to pursuing them through the courts: I’ve posted the info I have at the bottom of this post, which is all a matter of public record, but I’d like to run through a few points before we get to that.

Suppliers Discussion Group

At the end of last year we set up a private online Suppliers Discussion Group in the hope of facilitating the possibility of a joint action and/or coordinated response. That group still exists: if you’re a supplier and would like to join the group, please request an invitation. Whether or not it achieves anything is entirely your call, of course, but if you simply sit there on the sidelines moaning that nothing’s happening and no one’s doing anything, what do you expect? Ask not Who’s going to do something? but What can I do?

Today is Good Friday and yes, if you take a stand there’s always the risk that, like Jesus, you’ll end up crucified. That’s part of the deal when you follow Jesus and if you didn’t take that on board when you signed up, that’s either because some evangelist wasn’t telling you the truth or because you didn’t read the small print, even though it’s writ large on every page of the Gospels. Christianity isn’t a shortcut to health-and-wealth: charlatans like the Brewers who use Christianity as a way to pimp their own egos and empires are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Sermon over: if you haven’t got it by now, you probably never will.

Taking a Stand

So what, in practice, has happened when people take a stand against the Brewers? They’ve been paid. Every case we have on record of either an individual or an organisation/company tackling the Brewers head-to-head has resulted in settlement; and when J Mark Brewer attempted to take himself to court in his bogus bankruptcy filing, the only thing he demonstrated was his own incompetence, to the point where the court threw him out as a laughing stock. The only way he was able to get out the hole he’d dug for himself was to hire another attorney to haul him out: the man is, quite frankly, an oaf. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, the facts are friendly. 

Cases Resolved So Far

1. Via this blog:

2. Listed by Brewer himself in the official SSG Statement of Financial Affairs (pdf) filed June 19, 2008, with the US Bankruptcy Court, Texas:

  • TBS, The Book Service: Stratford upon Avon County Court, refs PJS/091710 and  8SV00246, p.7.
  • Nick Johnson, refs 1806366/2007 and 1806489/2007, p.6.
  • Kirsty Smith, ref 7QT61858. Listed as ‘Pending’, p.6, but since resolved.*
  • Melanie Carroll, ref 2600803/2007, p.6.
  • Miss A C Speddings, ref 2801875/2007. Listed as ‘Pending’, p.6, but since resolved.*
  • Mike Pickering, ref 1502210/2007, p.6.

* Information supplied in private correspondence.

Most of these have been out of court settlements. Why? Because, quite simply, the Brewers know they don’t have a leg to stand on. The bankruptcy filing scam and the transfer of company assets to other companies were nothing more than a ruse set up in an attempt to evade SSG’s creditors: any review of the evidence will almost certainly result in them being laughed out of the court.

Certificate of Employers Liability Insurance

Certificate of Employers Liability Insurance

Furthermore, here in the UK, SSG has not gone into administration since the case was thrown out of the USA courts; and despite Philip W Brewer’s protestations that there was “no relationship going forward” between SSG and the Durham Cathedral Shop Management Co., we now have very clear evidence of precisely that continuing relationship in the form of the shop’s Certificate of Employers’ Liability Insurance issued in the name of St Stephen the Great Trust (Policy No. SB06000002/05ACI0125269) for the current period November 2008 – October 2009.

Whether a certificate issued in the name of one company to cover employees of what is ostensibly another company is valid is another matter, of course: I’ve asked Ecclesiastical for clarification. The point here, however, is that the Durham shop and, I’m told, the other shops are displaying this certificate: SSG accepts liability for the Durham shop employees. Any claims that the company has ceased trading and has no liability for other aspects of the shop’s business such as its debts are dubious at best if not complete codswallop. 

Thanks to Melanie Carroll for pointing out that the cost of starting a Small Claim through the Courts is relatively small — as little, in fact, as £25 for a claim up to £300 (Fees Leaflet [pdf]) if submitted via the Money Claim Online service, although this service requires an address in England or Wales where documents may be served. If you back up your claim with appropriate evidence — by visiting a shop and taking a photograph of an item you supplied but haven’t been paid for, for instance — you should be in with a good chance. See HMCS (Her Majesty’s Court Service) Making a Claim for practical guidance on submitting a claim or contact the HMCS Helpdesk.

Resources

Brewer Addresses

The Brewers’ addresses are a matter of public record:

1. From the SSG/SPCK Bankruptcy Filing documents:

J Mark & Philip W Brewer - addresses filed with the Texas Bankruptcy Courts

J Mark & Philip W Brewer - from the Texas Bankruptcy Court Documents

2. From Brewer & Pritchard PC, Contact Us page, which also includes a form for submitting messages directly online:

J Mark Brewer
Brewer & Pritchard, PC 
Three Riverway, 18th Floor
Houston, Texas 77056 
.
Phone: 713-209-2950
Fax: 713-659-5302
Email: brewer@bplaw.com
.

3. From Pima County Court Records, pdf | html (Links broken? Try a Google Search for P21-06-033)

Phil & Beth Brewer
2610 W Bountiful Lane
Tucson, AZ 85742
.

4. Phil Brewer’s Business Card, which he left lying around at asingleblog:

Brewer Enterprises

Brewer Enterprises

.

 

Disclaimer
For the avoidance of doubt: nothing included in this post (or any other post on this site) constitutes legal advice. Any action you may or may not take in response thereto and any consequences thereof are your own responsibility.

Breaking the Silence

Two Brewers - but watch out, there may be more...

Two Brewers - but watch out, there may be more...

Phil Groom writes:

Have been rummaging through my backcopies of Christian Marketplace and found the article J Mark Brewer had them take down from their website, from the July 2008 issue, Industry News, p.6. Reproduced below for those who missed it; and if that’s you, good news: if you’re involved in Christian retail, a church leader or responsible for a church bookstall, you need never miss another issue — head on over to the UKCBD Blog to find out how to pick up a FREE subscription: Keeping Up to Date, Getting Up to Speed.

Reading through the article, I can’t see anything that’s even remotely sanctionable let alone libellous. This is straightforward, factual reporting. But I can see plenty of reasons why dear old Marky warky, bless his devious little cotton socks, would have wanted to suppress it. 

Finally, a reminder for anyone pursuing the Brewers/SSG for debts: neither the St Stephen the Great trading company nor the St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust is in fact bankrupt. They have not gone into administration; they have not been legally declared insolvent. The USA bankruptcy filing was thrown out as an attempted fraud on the courts. Don’t let them fob you off with false claims of bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy, closures, sackings…
From bad to worse at SSG

The SSG Bookshops story took a dramatic twist last month when it emerged that the company which owns the shops, St Stephen the Great – Limited Liability Company (SSG – LLC) had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States. Chapter 11 is a form of bankruptcy that allows a business to continue trading and pay creditors over time.

Mark Brewer informed all staff by email on 6th June that on 6th June that “SSG has been terminated as the trading company to operate the bookshops formerly known as SPCK bookshops” and that “SSG-LLC has been placed into reorganisation in U.S. Bankruptcy Court”.

The email also advised staff that, “The bookshops will now be operated by ENC Management Company. Former employees of SSG-LLC are invited to apply for a position with ENC Management Company. If you wish to apply, please reply to this email so indicating.”

The directors of ENC, which was registered at Companies House on 11th March 2008, are listed as Sandra K Brewer, Mark J Brewer and Philip W Brewer and its registered office is listed as the address of the Chester shop.

Staff in the Chester shop received an email on 2nd June from Philip Brewer advising them of the “change in ownership/management to ENC Management Company with effect from 1st June.” The email also advised staff that they could continue “employment at the Chester bookshop … by applying for a position with the new company” (ENC) and that this was “not a transfer of your employment under TUPE.”

USDAW, the shop staffs Trade Union, who have been advising staff over recent months, expressed concerns at the latest developments. Christine Peacock, Senior Legal Assistant at USDAW, told Christian Marketplace, “We are currently investigating what effect, if any, SSG’s filing for bankruptcy will have in the UK.”

Peacock confirmed that there are fifteen claims lodged in preparation for Industrial Tribunals. The first of these (Alison Speddings vs Mark Brewer) which was due to be heard from Monday 9th June at the Sheffield Employment Tribunal, was adjourned because of the ‘bankruptcy’ situation and neither Mark nor Phil Brewer were in attendance.

She also said that USDAW were aware that ENC Management Company is also owned by the Brewer brothers and were “currently taking advice on the validity of these actions. We are concerned that they will have the effect of moving the assets to a place which means that there are no assets available to settle the claims.”

The Charity Commission are also to undertake an investigation into SSG; a spokesman confirmed that they are “currently considering whether this raises any issues for the Charity Commission to take forward.”

At the time of writing it appears that thirteen of the 24 shops originally passed onto SSG are now closed. A number have closed since the bankruptcy announcement, including Chester, Newcastle, Norwich and Worcester. A further three are independently open with doubts about the status on another four.

Currently there are three companies running the remaining bookshops. In addition to ENC there is Durham Shop Management Co. and Chichester Shop Management Co. and the listed directors are the same for all three.

Mark Brewer has again been asked to comment on the current developments but has not responded to any request.

Brewers Still Faking It In Salisbury

Congratulations to J Mark Brewer on winning the much coveted Mr GAFCON 2008 award. Mark, you are truly a hero and I can think of no one else so deserving of this trophy: well done, sir, well done!

Phil Groom writes:

Is it ENC? Is it SSG? Is it Third Space Books? No: it’s SPCK!!

Thanks to one intrepid photographer (you know who you are: thank you) we can reveal that despite a Trading Standards investigation requiring the removal of their illegal SPCK signage, as of 18th December 2008 the former SPCK Bookshop in Salisbury was still using an SPCK Sale notice in its window:

Salisbury, 18th Dec 2008

Salisbury, 18th Dec 2008

Salisbury SPCK Sale Notice, 18th Dec 2008

Zooming In: Salisbury SPCK Sale Notice, 18th Dec 2008

Have to say, I was rather taken by the ‘Window Pictures by Icon Art’ backdrop to the sale notice. Very fetching; and I do hope someone closer to hand will check — and if they’re still displaying this notice, that someone will fetch Wiltshire’s Trading Standards back again…

Somebody remind me, please: how long ago was it that the licence to use the SPCK name in connection with the bookshops was withdrawn? And what did Mark Brewer himself say about wanting to dissociate SSG from that name? Something about “traditional Christian values”? One wonders which tradition he had in mind…

“It is important that the people who work for this charity want to work for it and are devoted to supporting its work because it is not ‘just a job’; it is a mission,” he said. Brewer added that he has no intention to sell off stores. “I did not agree on behalf of Saint Stephen the Great to acquire 23 brilliant locations in great cathedral cities throughout the country, only to sell them a year later,” he said.

“These shops are like the talents the Lord spoke of in the parable, and to earn His favour as ‘good and faithful servants’ we must invest these talents for His glory. That is why I have taken a bold e-commerce initiative to become the dominant online Christian bookseller. I have also opened two new shops since the acquisition.”

Splendidly said, Mark, splendidly said

David Keen writes to the Charity Commissioners

Cross-posted from:

Letter to Charity Commissioners about the Society of St. Stephen the Great, and the former SPCK bookshops

Thanks to David for this. As always, comments are welcome here; but please be sure to also post your comments on David’s original post.

Thank you — Phil Groom.

David writes:

With no reply from Mark Brewer after 2 weeks, I have re-sent the original letter from the 498 ‘We Support Dave Walker‘ Facebookers. I will also be putting the following letter in the post later today. I’m not really interested in who gets back to me first, I just want justice.

Re: St. Stephen the Great Charitable Trust (charity no. 1109008, registered 12/4/05, removed 8/8/07)
St. Stephen the Great (charity no 1119839, registered 27/6/07)
St. Stephen the Great Charitable Trust (subsidiary of St. Stephen the Great, registered 19.8.07)

Dear Charity Commissioners,

I have a number of concerns about the charities listed above, and would be grateful if you could look into them.

The St. Stephen the Great Charitable Trust (SSGCT) has not filed any accounts with you since March 2006, either in its original incarnation as a registered charity, or as a subsidiary of ‘St. Stephen the Great’ (SSG) SSGCT was removed from registration on 8.8.07 and re-registered as a subsidiary of SSG on 19.8.07. It is now over 30 months since any financial records have been submitted. In the meantime the company has attempted to file for bankruptcy in the USA, is subject to 30 claims through employment tribunals in the UK, and employees are reporting that pension contributions have not been kept up to date.

The claim for bankruptcy itself was thrown out by the US courts, on the basis that the main creditors were in the UK, and legal action was promptly begun against the principal SSG trustee for attempting to use the US courts to evade their responsibilities elsewhere.

Saint Stephen the Great is also the name of a trading company, registered at Companies House (Company No. 061105190), whose Directors are the same as the SSG charity Trustees. It was incorporated on 16.2.07 and as yet has filed no accounts, their last return was due in March 2008 and is now more than 7 months overdue.

SSGCT ran a chain of bookshops, which it acquired from the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) in 2006. In June 2008 the Chairman of SSG and SSGCT emailed shop staff to inform them that:
“SSG (St Stephen the Great – limited liability company) has been terminated as the trading company to operate the bookshops formerly known as SPCK Bookshops…. The bookshops will now be operated by ENC Management Company”
ENC is listed on the Companies House website as Company Number FC028292, and it’s Directors and Secretary are the same 3 people as the St. Stephen the Great charity trustees, and the directors of the St. Stephen the Great trading company.

My concerns are as follows:
1. Your website states: Trustees of charities with income exceeding £10,000 in their last financial year are required to complete and submit an Annual Return and a copy of the trustees’ annual report and accounts. This must be done within 10 months of the end of the charity’s financial year. 

SSG/SSGCT has not done this. In view of the financial situation detailed above, financial transparency would seem to be vital, yet the latest accounts only cover 2005-6. As a private citizen I would be fined if my tax return was submitted more than 9 months after the end of the tax year, but this has now been 30 months and rising. What is happening, and what processes are being followed to make SSG/SSGCT publish its accounts? Many suppliers and staff remain unpaid, and there seem to be pension payments missing as well. It is vital that up to date accounts are published to enable these claims to be properly processed.

2. If the bookshops are now being run by ENC Management Company, which has no formal relationship with any of the SSG charities, then is there a proper process for the transfer of assets from a charity to a private company, and has this been followed?

3. A memo from one of the ENC Directors, Mr Phil Brewer, to shop staff in August 2008 stated: “ On all purchases of 10 GBP or more, offer a 2 GBP discount if a donation of 1 GBP or more is made. They must also fill out a gift aid form.” A scanned copy of this memo is attached, retrieved from http://spckssg.wordpress.com/2008/08/24/philip-brewer-says-immediately-post-this/

However, given that the chain is now being run by ENC Management Company (a registered company) and not SSG (a charity), then is it legitimate to claim gift aid on purchases? If not, what is the legal position of staff who are being asked to do this?

4. The memo also instructs staff (no.5) inform customers that ‘thirdspacebooks’ – a website set up to support the bookshops – ‘supports charity’. However, ordering books through the site (http://thirdspacebooks.com/) merely takes you to Amazon, and there is no indication on the site of which charities it supports.

5. The confusion of names does not help, nor does the fact that Third Space Books, in its photographs of the shops, shows them still trading under the name ‘SPCK’, a name SSG is not entitled to use.

My concern in this is as someone who has used these bookshops, and has become concerned about various aspects of the way this business is run. If you are not already looking into these irregularities, can I please ask you to do so as a matter of urgency. There are 30 former staff, and many more suppliers, who remain unpaid by this organisation, and financial transparency is essential to make sure that people receive what they are owed.

Yours sincerely
Rev David Keen

Quest for Enlightenment

Menus Rearranged
The About page is now called Info and the Petition page is called Durham, which gives us space for Evidence… apologies for any confusion caused… 

Sunday Programme
The report we expected this Sunday has been postponed: probably next week.
Update, 25/9/2008:
not this coming weekend after all — watch this space…  

Petition Reminder
Our online petition to rescue Durham Cathedral Bookshop is still open: if you haven’t already signed it, please read it and consider doing so.
Thank you.

Phil Groom writes:

On Friday 19th September, Neil Denham posted some photos of the Exeter shop in its death throes: SPCK Bookshop Exeter – RIP. I’ve scaled a couple of those pictures down and reproduced them here, but it’s worth clicking through to Neil’s post to see the rest, though it makes for sad reading. Neil’s account reads rather like an obituary:

Of course it was only a shell of a business in the last few years anyway, with no new stock and terrible mismanagement and sporadic opening hours (and weeks on end of being closed), but still, it is a sad sight to see it stripped bare of stock.

Closure of SPCK/SSG Exeter, 19/09/2008

Neil cites an excerpt from an email he received:

I saw a notice declaring a Closing Down Sale with an offer of 40% off all stock. However, whatever staff they had employed were told this morning that the shop was closing today… later there were two men there and cartons (presumably of books) stacked waiting to be loaded. They said they had had instructions to clear everything… the entire stock was being transferred to York.

It’s this last half-sentence that has me puzzled and I’m hoping that someone can enlighten me. My sources tell me that stock from Birmingham was transferred to Durham; that stock from Norwich was transferred to Chichester; and now we learn that the stock from Exeter has been transferred to York.

But who, exactly, owns this stock that’s being merrily shuffled around the country? It’s a question that’s been niggling away in the back of my mind for some time now. Let’s rewind for a moment: in June the Brewers declared that SSG had “been terminated as the trading company to operate the bookshops formerly known as SPCK Bookshops” — instead, they would “be operated by ENC Management Company” (from: SSG files for bankruptcy; also at New Name for SSG?). So what exactly happened here? Did ENC buy out SSG? Or was the whole thing a deliberate fraud foisted upon the book trade by the Brewers in an attempt to evade their debts and avoid paying for this stock that’s now been reallocated to different stores?

As we’ve seen, fraud certainly seems to be within the purview of the US bankruptcy courts, with a weirdness quotient so high that it’s off the scale since the company that the Brewers declared to be bankrupt — SSG LLC — never existed in the first place and consequently could never have employed or dismissed anybody, never ran any shops and never owned any stock…

The reality emerging seems to be that the ENC Shop Management Company along with the Durham Cathederal [sic] Shop Management Company and the Chichester Shop Management Company are (or were: checking this evening I note that Companies House have ENC listed with the name ‘Sue Dawson’ and Chichester with the name ‘Bradley Smith’) all fronts for the Brewers which appear to have been set up for the specific purpose of transferring the assets of the supposedly bankrupt SSG in a way that would allow the Brewers — if the plan had worked — to simply sell the stock and… and… and do what with the proceeds? Pay their workers? Pay their suppliers?

In which case, why not simply talk to your suppliers and request extended credit? Who does own the stock? Does it still belong to the suppliers? Or have Mark and Philip Brewer assumed ownership of it themselves, either personally or under the auspices of these somewhat dubious companies, despite apparently not paying for it? At what point does stock that hasn’t been paid for become stolen property? Are we now looking at a scenario in which the remaining shops are dealing in stolen property? Is it time to call the police?

Of course, I could be wrong: it could simply be a case of total incompetence; but I do think the time has come for these questions to be raised publicly and considered seriously. Somebody, please, enlighten me; and as I said about Third Space Books: buyer beware.

J Mark Brewer, I Salute You. Briefly.

Such, unfortunately, is the nature of a salute: it’s a sign of respect, but it’s very short lived. Nonetheless, credit where it’s due: as Matt Wardman noted in his latest weekly roundup, within ten days of ToyboxColin expressing his distress at being unpaid, you paid him: thank you.

On July 8th, ToyboxColin wrote:

Am I representing the first supplier to the former SPCK shops who has decided to make a comment on this blog? We are a Christian Charity who sold Christmas Cards and a few other Latin American Crafts to the shops last Autumn for which we have not been paid. Not a huge debt but significant to us! This site and the Cartoon Blog seems to eb the only place to find out what is going on with all this Bankruptcy and Liquidation nonsense. It’s about time the Brewers owned up to their total incompetence to run anything – including a bath!

On July 18th, he wrote:

Surprise, surprise………we’ve been paid IN FULL, including the Court Costs for filing a claim, direct from ENC in the USA! Wonder if other suppliers have???

But it gets better than that: when Pauline Edwards expressed her distress at her friend’s situation — also picked up on by the Revd Sam Norton and the Revd Dr Christian Troll —  just six days later, you paid that friend: thank you. 

On August 2nd, Pauline wrote:

Mr Brewer,
Could you tell me please, why you told a fellow worker, that there job was safe, and it was o.k. to take there first mortgage out to buy a house. The fellow worker trusted you, after asking you a few times. That fellow worker has took the biggest debt ever, on your assurance, and was only in there new home 2 days, when they were sacked by email, and left this person with no wages to pay there first mortage payment.
Does this ring a bell Mr Brewer?

On August 8th, she wrote:

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.

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!!!

This is good news, Mark, and this is why I offer you this brief salute.

But Pauline herself apparently remains unpaid. And she is not alone. You know that, Mark: you know how many workers you haven’t paid and you know all the suppliers you haven’t paid.

And if the St Stephen the Great Trust or the ENC Management Company — or whatever other guise you’re trading under now — can afford to pay you $75,000 in legal fees for your services at Brewer and Pritchard, it can certainly afford to pay its workers their wages, with some to spare for the suppliers too.

Please pay them. It shouldn’t be necessary for them to have to cry out against you on a public forum such as this. It certainly shouldn’t be necessary for me to have to spell this out for you. This blog shouldn’t be necessary.

You wanted me silenced. Here’s how you can achieve that: not through belligerence and bullying but by paying your workers and suppliers… and last but not least, by withdrawing your threats against me, my colleagues and friends.

And, of course, any donation you’d care to make to the Save the SPCK Booksellers fund in the meantime will be very welcome: thank you.