Matt Wardman writes:
Firstly, the shop in Durham Cathedral is operated on a Leasehold basis and is not directly managed by Durham Cathedral Dean and Chapter. The business malpractices documented in this article concern Mark and Philip Brewers’ running of the former SPCK chain of bookshops. These are not legally the responsibility of Durham Cathedral.
I hope that that disclaimer is clear in its meaning. So – to business.
‘Third Space Books of Durham Cathedral’
This is an advert for Third Space Books scanned in from the Middlesborough Diocesan Year Book 2009 of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Middlesborough:
Call me St Cuthbert and set me spinning in my grave, but I’d have thought that any adverts bigging up Durham Cathedral Great Kitchen as the base for the Brewer run bookshop should actually use the website and name of Durham Cathedral Shop. Certainly when I phoned up 0191 386 2972 this morning, that is how the phone was answered by a very friendly-sounding shop assistant.
Further, the terms of the Lease on the shop commit the lessee to “diligently publicise” the shop. Using a different name in adverts to that used to answer the phone does not seem to me to fit that bill.
And surely the real advantage of the name “Durham Cathedral Shop” is that it stays the same for a reasonable length of time. You almost have to put a display screen in where the lease used to say “SPCK” these days, because responsibility for the lease has gone through a series of business entities like a game of pinball as the Brewers try to dodge paying for the at least $1.5m worth of goods, services and employees’ money they have obtained or retained in violation of all their legal responsibilities.
The Durham Cathedral Bookshop Lease
This is what the Lease (I have a copy of the lease under which SPCK operated Durham Cathedral Bookshop) says (my italics):
Terms of an Agreement Between
The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK)
The Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral
Clause 11: Both SPCK and the Chapter will diligently publicise the SPCK shop. The Chapter will put out and maintain notices directing the public to the SPCK shop.
As explained above, “SPCK” should be replaced by whatever the name of the business entity operating the shop happens to be this month. So far, it has been (I think, but it’s tough keeping track from outside):
- The Society of St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust.
- St Stephen the Great (Company Limited by Guarantee), where it has sometimes been responsiblity for employees was transferred.
- St Stephen the Great LLC – purported name of the non-existent entity in the US Bankruptcy Scam.
- Durham Cathedral Shop Management Company (which has now held the lease for a remarkable 8 months).
Next month it will presumably be renamed to something like Shysters ‘R’ Us.
Does anyone know if you you can get leases with the name of the lessee written in erasable ink?
Transferrable Assets (or not)
This post assumes that the Brewers have managed to transfer the lease successfully among their various business organisations. If that is so, I cannot understand their problems in transferring any of the following (to pick a few examples out of the air):
- Transferring the “Personal” alcohol licences of the “premises supervisor” at Durham Cathedral from the previous shop manager who
was sacked on the spottold that she had resigned when she refused to sign a heavily slanted “franchise” agreement to take on the cathedral shop. (Note: this was a proposed sub-let from the Brewers, not involving the Dean and Chapter).
- Transferring payments for booklets supplied by the cathedral in August 2007 in the sum of 418 ukp to the Dean and Chapter. There exists a debt of $664.10 to “Durham Cathedral Chapter Office” recorded (see below) on the papers submitted by J Mark Brewer in his admitted “bad faith” Bankruptcy Application to the South Texas Bankruptcy Court. That might suggest that someone needs to send the Brewers on a course in “transferring money to your suppliers for Goods Received” (*), along with the one that J Mark Brewer has hopefully attended by now on “Legal Ethics and Texas Bankrupcy Law” at the insistence of the Judge Marvin Isgur of the South Texas Bankruptcy Court.
- Transferring monies deducted from their employees’ paychecks as “National Insurance” and “Pensions Contributions” to the relevant authorities.
Strangely, J Mark and Philip Brewer seem to be incredibly efficient (PhD Level at least) at transferring payments of hundreds of thousands from the former-SPCK chain of bookshops to other organisations they control.
Termination of the Lease
The lease under which the Society of St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust cum St Stephen the Great (Company Limited by Guarantee) cum St Stephen the Great LLC cum Durham Cathedral Shop Management Company (delete as applicable) has the shop includes provisions which allow for termination, including a break clause that allows the Durham Cathedral Dean and Chapter to terminate the lease at 6 months notice (clause 15):
15. Term. This agreement shall run from the date on which the shop opens in August or September 1997 to 30th April 2010. After five years (i.e., 1st September 2002) either party shall have the right to terminate this agreement by giving not less than six months notice in writing to terminate at the end of the SPCK financial year on 30th April.
There have also been (at least) two occasions – most recently in the early summer this year – when a new business entity has meant reassignment/novation of the lease.
In a previous statement the Dean of Durham Cathedral said:
I need to state once again that the Cathedral Chapter does not manage the shop in its Great Kitchen. This is run as a franchise subject to strict business law, as it was in the days of SPCK. Not all petitioners appear to be clear that a franchise is a formal, legal arrangement to which the parties to it are bound.
It may well be that Legal Action has been threatened by the Brewers to prevent termination of this lease. In the past they have threatened legal action to control the actions taken by others, including (I am told) to force SPCK to release funds for further renovations on a bookshop after the first tranche of funds released had (apparently) vanished into thin air without resulting in the promised new fire-escape. More than 2 years later, the fire escape has still not been built, the thirty thousand pounds is still missing, and the consultant who worked on the project is on the list of creditors in the Bankruptcy Documents – still unpaid.
The Wolf who Cried “Boy – I Will Sue You!”
In total, I am already aware of getting on for ten legal threats made by the Mark and/or Philip Brewer, and I have yet to hear of a single occasion where they followed up on their threatening letters when faced down.
It is time that we stopped taking these threats seriously – at present they (like the famous “Cheshire Cat” Cease and Desist letters) seem to amount to no than a pair of pink elephants in cowboy hats, even though they look far more threatening at the outset.
The usual result is that they back down and reach a settlement when it reaches the “put up or shut up” point. This hypothesis has been tested by employees, suppliers and reporters. And I hear that it is what SPCK itself have done once they understood the tactic. They really don’t like it up ’em.
Durham Cathedral Shop is the highly profitable keystone in the arch of this unsustainable business structure, and changing the operator of the shop to be one with at least a shred of integrity would guarantee the beginning of the end of this sorry saga.
It would be messy, but it will be messy anyway – so let’s get this thing nailed while there are still some assets left.
As I mention in the title, for some reason “Third Space Books” is an anagram of “Crooks Ship a Debt”. I wonder why? 21st Century Urim and Thumim, perhaps?
And your homework for the day. Go and do a search on “Durham Cathedral Shop” or Durham Cathedral Bookshop” on Google, and see which articles are deemed relevant for readers interested in that subject. There’s a hint on the right.
For the Avoidance of Doubt
As is traditional, let me state that the shop in Durham Cathedral is operated on a Leasehold basis and is not directly managed by Durham Cathedral Dean and Chapter. The business malpractices documented in this article concern Mark and Philip Brewers’ running of the former SPCK chain of bookshops, and that is – as we know – nothing to do with the Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral, and that they bear no responsibility.
(*) I recommend that the training company supplying any course to the Brewer Brothers follow the example of the Durham Cathedral Choir Association since at least early summer this year and deal with Durham Cathedral Shop on a “cleared funds basis”. You should demand cash up front when you supply anything, in the hope that the people running the Durham Cathedral Shop will not get to keep both your Goods AND your money.