From Bankruptcy to Liquidation?

A report in today’s Bookseller, St Stephen the Great liquidates in US, states:

Christian charity and bookseller St Stephen the Great has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the US, a form of liquidation. There will be a meeting for creditors at Houston Bankruptcy Court on 22nd July.

Exactly what this implies about the status of SSG here in the UK remains unclear. The report cites an unnamed Usdaw spokesperson:

Our legal team has been in contact with the Brewers. They are continuing to look into the legality of the bankruptcy and what we can do for our members.

The Brewers themselves, unsurprisingly, have declined to comment…

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20 responses to “From Bankruptcy to Liquidation?

  1. I note in reading about Chapter 7 (I’m no lawyer) that the debtor can hold onto “exempt” property. Does this mean that the Brewers can hold onto Chichester and Durham and the freehold property that they are not allowed to sell?

  2. This is the question, isn’t it? I’m totally astonished that Durham Cathedral haven’t booted them out by now. Booktrade rapists or what? Why is Durham giving them sanctuary?

  3. Phelim McIntyre

    Concerning the Chichester shop – the Brewers (SSG/ENC) do not pay rent to Chichester Diocese, but may be in breach of the Covenant which allows them use of the building. With the relationship between SSG and ENC (same directors) could this expalin why the other two companies (Chichester Shop Management and Durham Cathedral Shop management) are registered as having been founded in Australia? Is there someway we can let the courts in America know that SSG and ENC are one and the same?

  4. suspected US Bankruptcy fraud can be reported here:
    USTP.Bankruptcy.Fraud@usdoj.gov

    You need to provide the following info,You are not required to give your details but they would prefer it for follow up if necessary.

    REQUESTED INFORMATION

    * Name and address of the person or business you are reporting.
    * The name of the bankruptcy case, case number, and the location of where the case was filed.
    * Any identifying information you may have regarding the individual or the business.
    * A brief description of the alleged fraud, including how you became aware of the fraud and when the fraud took place. Please include all supporting documentation.
    * Identify the type of asset that was concealed and its estimated dollar value, or the amount of any unreported income, undervalued asset, or other omitted asset or claim.
    * Your name, address, telephone number, and email address. You are not required to identify yourself, though it is often helpful to do so if questions arise.

    THE LIKELIHOOD OF FURTHER INVESTIGATION AND POSSIBLE CRIMINAL PROSECUTION IS INCREASED FOR THOSE MATTERS WHERE SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION AND SPECIFIC FACTUAL INFORMATION ARE PROVIDED. ANY INFORMATION YOU PROVIDE IS VOLUNTARY AND ITS MAINTENANCE BY THE UNITED STATES TRUSTEE PROGRAM IS AUTHORIZED BY 28 U.S.C. § 586.

    This info is from:
    http://www.usdoj.gov/ust/eo/fraud/index.htm

  5. http://www.uscourts.gov/bankruptcycourts/bankruptcybasics/glossary.html#F

    ‘fraudulent transfer
    A transfer of a debtor’s property made with intent to defraud or for which the debtor receives less than the transferred property’s value. ‘

    ‘If you have information about an individual or company you suspect is not complying with federal bankruptcy laws, report this activity.
    ‘http://www.uscourts.gov/contact.html

    ‘It is very important that a bankruptcy case be filed and handled correctly. The rules are very technical, and a misstep may affect a debtor’s rights. For example, a debtor whose case is dismissed for failure to file a required document, such as a credit counseling certificate, may lose the right to file another case or lose protections in a later case, including the benefit of the automatic stay. Bankruptcy has long-term financial and legal consequences – hiring a competent attorney is strongly recommended.

    Debtors must list all property and debts in their bankruptcy schedules. If a debt is not listed, it is possible the debt will not be discharged. (Lists of the documents [including schedules] that debtors must file are set out on Form B200, one of the Director’s Procedural Forms.) The judge can also deny the discharge of all debts if a debtor does something dishonest in connection with the bankruptcy case, such as destroying or hiding property, falsifying records, or lying. Individual bankruptcy cases are randomly audited to determine the accuracy, truthfulness, and completeness of the information that the debtor is required to provide. Please be aware that bankruptcy fraud is a crime.’
    http://www.uscourts.gov/bankruptcycourts/prose.html

    however it needs to be stated that there may not have been a fraudulent transfer or any other act of fraud as there may be perfectly legal and mitigating circumstances we are not aware of that allow the transfers phelim made reference to!

  6. Why is Durham giving them sanctuary?
    I don’t think it’s as simple as that.

  7. Would you like to elaborate on that, please, furious? I know there’s some sort of covenant in place between SPCK and SSG — but surely by now SSG have thoroughly breached the terms of that covenant?

  8. justflyingkites

    Maybe furious is referring to Durham and its 2010 programme. I’m only guessing. I go into that bookshop every time I am in Durham and I leave sadder every time. I’m sad that the staff are so demoralised and I’m sad that both the gift and bookshop look really empty.

    I’m also sad that people in charge of Durham Cathedral have left it to come to this. If Leicester, Norwich and many others have managed to get shot of the Brewers, why has this august place not managed to do the same? My guess is that as long as the Brewers pay their lease they will be allowed to continue. Once again it’s up to suppliers not to supply the Cathedral Shop and up to staff to tell local suppliers exactly what the risks when they deal with the Durham Cathedral Shop. There are so many who could kill off The Durham Cathedral Shop Management Co. but for some reason nobody dares.

  9. Phelim McIntyre

    Having spoken to people who work/have worked at the Durham shop there are big issues which makes getting rid of SSG/ENC an uphill struggle. Durham Cathedral is not pro-Brewer it just takes time and energy to get rid of them. There have been opportunities where they could have got rid of the Brewers but it would have cost too much to do so. Notice that other than Durham and Chichester all the others are under ENC. Durham and Chichester have their own companies. Why? Could this be due to the specific legal situations with the landlords? At Chichester they do not have to pay rent, is there a similar clause which protects the Brewers – like a long term fixed contract – at Durham? If so this may also explain the silence from Durham Cathedral.

  10. justflyingkites

    Chichester was just looking for a way to use a church building. Durham is different. The shop is in the cloister. Prime property. Do the Brewer’s have to pay rent? Sure they do and then some. The Brewer’s will find the money from one of their many accounts. It’s up to the Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral to get rid of SSG. Whilst they are about it they might tell the real people who work in the shop where they stand. The old story of “it’s up to them and their employers” no longer washes.

  11. Phelim McIntyre

    Justflyingkites – I know that SSG had a contract which has made it legally difficult for Durham to get rid of the Brewers without costing either them or someone else a lot of money. Unless the Brewers are in direct breach of that contract the legal ramifications could be huge. Durham seems to be one shop where the Brewers appear to be keeping, as much as they have to, to the contract. Also, remember silence at the moment does not mean in action. A lot of people want to speak out but due to legal action can not. These are not just individuals but also publishers. I hope that Durham’s silence is because their lawyers are going through things with a fine tooth comb. But unless there are solid legal grounds to chuck SSG/ENC or whatever name they want to call themselves out it can take time.

    Chichester is not actually that different, there are tight legal obligations on the occupier that the Brewers are in breach of, and by the end of this month they could be in even further breach of the legal covenant. The building is also in a prime position on the main pedestrain precinct in Chichester, opposite Woolworths. It would cost a huge amount of money to do up but I am sure Starbucks, Costa Coffee, or a wine bar would love to have the building if it was ever sold.

  12. justflyingkites

    Take your point Phelim McIntyre

  13. Phelim,

    I believe you may be innacurate on Durham as when ssg altered the name of their business they had a legal obligation to reapp for their lease as they had functionally altered the terms – this would be exactly the same with any lease in any premises anywhere!
    The company that held the previous lease was ceasing to trade (it is the same if a sole trader becomes a ltd, or any business changes its name in a buyout etc!) so needs the permission of the landlord to maintain the lease – or actually – to set up a new lease/change of name, failure to do so is legally problematic, so in point of fact Durham had the perfect opportunity (or even may have the perfect opportunity if they have not already been approached by the new companies owners!!) to end the lease without any financial or legal obligations upon themselves in this instance as the new company have in effect ended their pre-existing lease!
    Basic land law.

  14. justflyingkites

    I take that back Phelim, I always felt that there was something fishy about Durham.

  15. Valiant for Truth

    You would have to check with SPCK, but the lease with Durham Cathedral must have a get out clause as in 2004 the Cathedral wanted SPCK to quit the shop for the running to be taken over by Jarrolds. If the same lease is in place, why can SSG or whatever not be asked to quit?

  16. Phelim McIntyre

    What we need to know is who the lease is with at Durham. If it is with St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust then the Brewers may be technically subleasing the shop to SSG Ltd and then the Durham Cathedral Shop Management Company (or to themselves in practice). This may negate the legal issues brought up by “me” earlier.

  17. No sorry Phelim,
    Sub-Leasing is not allowed under any type of lease contract I am aware of without the express permission of the landlord!
    Also as SSG etc etc is in bankruptcy they cannot assign or sublet a lease to anyone!
    In fact sub-leasing was one of the problematic legal issues to which I was referring!

  18. Phelim McIntyre

    me – but as it is SSG Ltd not the wider SSG that is “officially” bankrupt would the Brewers care? Yes the two SSGs are the same company, but they wont admit that.

  19. I suspect that they may not care – but that is not the point.

    The point is that legally as the trading company now operating in Durham is the Durham Cathedral Shop Managment Company they must (or Should) have approached Durham for an agreement on the assignment of their lease to the new company – either that or they will be in breach of their lease due to sub-letting without permission.
    Either way it is in, or was in, Durham Cathedrals Purview to choose not to continue with the existing lease etc.
    The same would hold true for Chichester one supposes – though if there is no rent paid etc then the situation might well be slightly more complicated, but it would still have necessitated a consultation as it is a new company in each venue that is trading there now and not in any way shape or form ‘SSG anything’ by legal definitions.

  20. Pingback: “Two years of horror” - the Brewers’ Legacy to Britain « SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info

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