Daily Archives: December 1, 2008

Durham Cathedral Shop Finances and questionable Saint Stephen the Great payments

Matt Wardman writes:

First of all, let me set the context for this series of posts.

I have covered the rundown of the bookshop chain that used to be known as SPCK over several months. An earlier post covered a story of some leaked correspondence from the time when the management of the bookshop at Durham Cathedral was transferred from the Society of Saint Stephen the Great (SSGCT) to the newly created company “Durham Cathedral Shop Management Limited” (DCSML), which showed a brutal approach to the management of unpaid suppliers to the previous management company SSGCT.

This article is about a debt of almost £100,000 ($165,000+) built up over a mere three month period owed to the new company DCSHL by SSGCT after the new company took over on March 11th 2008, and before J Mark Brewer attempted to put SSGCT into Bankruptcy in Texas on 19 June 2008 (that is the date when the “Statement of Financial Affairs” was filed).

I also take a detailed look at a series of payments comprising well over half a million dollars taken out of the SSGCT organisation during a period of 12 months and paid to J Mark Brewer’s legal firm or to him personally, or to the “Orthodox Christian Mission Fund” of which he is listed as the Trustee.

I need to attach a strong note here that the SPCK mission society who used to be associated with the bookshop chain which includes the Durham Cathedral Bookshop is no longer involved in any way, and that Durham Cathedral are the landlord and not responsible for the management of the Durham Cathedral Bookshop. Nothing in this article reflects on either Durham Cathedral or SPCK.

I should also say that there are a lot of numbers in this post, and I will be pleased to correct any mistakes.

The Financial Context: Turnover of SPCK Bookshops

The turnover of the SPCK Bookshops Chain in previous years has been as follows, using figures drawn from SPCK Annual Accounts

  • May 2003 to April 2004: 6.597 million UKP
  • May 2003 to April 2004: 6.206 million UKP
  • May 2004 to April 2005: 6.003 million UKP
  • May 2005 to April 2006: 6.037 million UKP
  • May 2006 to October 2006: 2.570 million UKP (6 months)

On 31 October 2006, the operation of the SPCK Bookshop Chain was transferred to the Society of Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust (SSGCT – Charity No. 1109008).

At this point the financial trail vanishes into a Black Hole, because SSGCT (Charity No. 1109008) filed one set of accounts covering 4 NOVEMBER 2004 TO 31 MARCH 2006, and nothing after then. On 8 August 2007, SSGCT was united by direction of the Charity Commission with the new charity SAINT STEPHEN THE GREAT (Charity No. 1119839) as a subsidiary. As at December 1st 2008 no accounts for the new charity have appeared on the Charity Commission website. Let me be very clear and say that none are required to have been presented yet.

However, that does leave us without trading accounts for the from October 2006 to August 2007 for a bookshop chain with a turnover likely to be in excess of 5 million UKP. That is not a satisfactory state of affairs.

But … as with a lot of other information in this case … we have figures in dollars in the “Bankruptcy Documents”. So, courtesy of J Mark Brewer and his “Statement of Financial Affairs“, dated June 19 2008, we have:

  • Nov 2006 to March 2007: $4.733 million = 2.37 million UKP (using exchange rate of 2:1)
  • April 2007 to March 2008: $7.555 million = 3.78 million UKP
  • April 2008 to Jun 4 2008: $0.299 million = 0.15 million UKP

The savage drop in monthly turnover is mainly due to all of the shops being being transferred to different companies.

The Transfers out of Durham Cathedral Bookshop

The SSG Bankruptcy Schedule of Debtors Continuation 2 document shows an outstanding debt of $165,388 (82,700 ukp at 1:2 exchange rate) owed to Durham Cathedral Shop Management Ltd.


Remember, the company to which this debt was owed only came into existence 11 weeks before the debtor filed for Bankruptcy.

Durham Shop Turnover for Interim Period

Let’s compare the size of that transfer with the turnover of the Durham shop in that period.

Within these turnover figures, the turnover of the Durham shop is the largest in the chain, and accounts for around 15% of the turnover of whole chain (*), which gives us an estimated figure of £565k for the turnover for April 2007-March 2008.

The period between March 11 2008 (when the new Durham Company was set up) and May 31st is 11 weeks, and the turnover of the Durham shop would be roughly 11/52 of £565k, which is £120k. That figure assumes a flat turnover profile throughout the year.

(*) I am told by a reliable source.

SSGCT Debt is 70% of Entire Durham Cathedral Shop Turnover for interim period

So – how the hell did the Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust manage to build up a debt to the new company running the Durham Cathedral Shop of fully 70% of that shop’s entire estimated turnover between 11 March 2008 when that company was created, and June 4th 2008 when J Mark Brewer attempted to put the Charitable Trust itself into Bankruptcy in Texas? Or, to take a view from the other side, resources or assets equivalent to 70% of the shop’s estimated turnover during the period were transferred out to SSGCT at a time when past suppliers were simply . not . being . paid.

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