SPCK/SSG Creditors have 2 weeks to Act (Updated)

Matt Wardman writes:
This advert appeared in this week’s Bookseller.
Note that you only have about a fortnight to write in.

This charity has been in the press over recent years as a result of concerns expressed over its operations. In April 2009 the Charity Commission appointed Peter Gotham of Begbies Traynor as Interim Manager to take over its running – other than with respect to its religious mission in the churches it controls. This objective was made more complicated by virtue of the fact that since July 2007 the shops previously operated by the charity were managed instead by other companies appointed by the Trustees. The Interim Manager has now completed his initial work, has retaken possession of most shops, and is moving towards meeting valid claims on the charity’s assets. In order to do this he has instructed agents to put various of the Trust’s properties on sale. He is now advertising for creditors’ claims incurred before 1 July 2007 in order to ensure that no valid claims go unmet. (Any claims incurred after 1 July 2007 will be the responsibility of the various companies engaged by the Trustees.)
Creditors who believe that they have a valid claim against the Trustees of St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust incurred before 1 July 2007, should write to the Interim Manager at Begbies Traynor (Central) LLP, 32 Cornhill, London EC3V 3BT under ref S8703 before the close of business on 16 December 2009.
Presented by: Begbies Traynor (Central) LLP
Presenter’s Reference: S8703/PJG/NGA/BRS
Editorial Note: I am not at all convinced by the cut-off date, though, without seeing rock-solid evidence. For example, Mark Brewer was reported by the Bookseller as acting for SSG in November 2007 when the chain dropped the SPCK name.

And which external companies were responsible for running the shops after 1 July 2007? The company which seems to have been responsible for running most of them – ENC Shop Management Ltd – was not registered at Companies House until 11 March 2008

Groups such as the Church of England Pensions’ Board and various government agencies, and other creditors, need to take a close look at this.

And you only have 2 weeks to do so.
[Update: 27/9/1009.
We have been in touch with the interim Manager’s team during the afternoon.
The reason why responsibility is accepted for debts incurred before 1 July 2007 is that the Interim Manager was appointed to manage the “St Stephen the Great Trust” (no 1119839) charity, while a separate  charity – a Company Limited by Guarantee – had been created to manage the bookshops. The Interim Manager was not appointed to manage this Company Limited by Guarantee, and so they are not accepting reponsibility for debts incurred by this Company.
Editorial note: This is all horribly complicated, and we will try and submit a list of detailed questions to the Interim Manager and the Charity Commission over the weekend.  The Company Limited by Guarantee was merged with the parent charity (no 1119839) by direction of the Charity Commission on 27 July 2007 – see the “subsidiary charities” page on the link above, so it is not clear to us how the Interim Manager is entirely not responsible for actions of this charity.
In the meantime, there is an email address for the Interim Manager on the Charity Commission website, where you can send your precise queries.
My brain still hurts.]

32 responses to “SPCK/SSG Creditors have 2 weeks to Act (Updated)

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention SPCK/SSG Creditors have 2 weeks to Act « SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info -- Topsy.com

  2. A quick read of the people behind SSG LLC, ENC Shop Management, Chichester Shop Management and the “company” for Durham will show that the directors/trustees for these were a combination of Mark Brewer, Phil Brewer and their wives – they clearly appointed themselves so for the interim managers not to have responsibility for anything but SSG before July 1st 2007 is a nonsense and will allow the Brewers to get away with their snake oil trading scheme.

  3. Valiant for Truth

    So, Mark Brewer’s devious legal tricks mean lots of creditors lose out. Mind you, he tried the same kind of ploy in Houston and his bluff was called re his attempt at bankruptcy. Best check with Simon Kingston and Michael Perham as to whether they thought they were quitting as Trustees of SSGCT or SSG LLC in October 2007. And didn’t USDAW just succeed in obtaining payment for staff sacked right up to June 2008 in a Tribunal, which is a British legal body. Getting confused here – would creditors taking the Brewers to couurt for unpaid debts have to take out multiple cases for each “company” when the Directors/Trustees were all the same family, anyway? Wonder whether Baker Tilly are aware of this advertisement as unpaid SSG debts can’t have helped STL. Come on creditors owed money post 01/07/07, put in your claims and don’t take no for an answer. The Charity Commission is paid for by taxpayers, so we all have a right to have the job done properly and for the Brewers not to escape their punishment.

  4. Maybe this question is unfair. Are the CC taking short cuts? It is the CC who helped to create the Brewer hydra.

  5. Valiant for Truth

    Jacqui has raised a good point that the CC took action which, presumably, they thought was for the best, but which actually seems to make matters more complicated. Since the whole issue of the CC and the IM’s arose, I have wondered about the exact role of the Charity Commission. Is it ensuring charities behave properly with donated cash, or is it prorecting the charities and ensuring the cash is properly handled? If an Interim Manager is realising assets, does the funding go to pay off debts with any residue returning to the Charity? If a charity is seen to be bogus, can it not be wound up? When claims have been met, what happens to remaining assets, in this case other freehold properties? Transparency, please.

  6. >It is the CC who helped to create the Brewer hydra.

    I don’t think that is fair or accurate.

    The CC appointing an IM to take over management of the charity prevented further asset stripping and started the change to coming *out* of the wood.

    The USDAW claim would still be mired in adminis-distopia if the action had not happened.

    I’m not willing to express a final view about the declared cut off date on eligible creditor claims without a lot more information.

    >Is it ensuring charities behave properly with donated cash, or is it prorecting the charities and ensuring the cash is properly handled?

    I think those two amount to the same thing.

    >If an Interim Manager is realising assets, does the funding go to pay off debts with any residue returning to the Charity? When claims have been met, what happens to remaining assets, in this case other freehold properties?

    I don’t know the answer to those, except that pretty clearly any assets go to pay off existing debts first.

    >If a charity is seen to be bogus, can it not be wound up?

    Yes, and I think that appointing an IM is one variation on that process. If it was bankrupt, I assume that it would be wound up.

    • I think Jacqui is speaking from a different place – a place the blog has forgotten.

      • I didn’t intend to have a go at Jacqui personally (sorry if that is how it sounded); perhaps there are things we don’t know given how murky this has all been.

  7. I agree – as many of the heads of the Brewer hydra are not registered as charities. There is one charity and at least four pseudo trading companies created as smoke screens by the Brewers to hide their actiosn behind. I also have a recollection that charity details also changed part way through. This date could be because of this change.

  8. I do urge anyone who has information to let Phil know, your confidentiality is guaranteed- it doesn’t have to be on “the blog”
    No matter how trival or unimportant you feel it may be.
    Even if you don’t feel you have any information I’m sure that a show of support on the blog( annonymous if you prefer) would be much appreciated by all those still out there and suffering.

  9. Valiant for Truth

    Agreed, Annie, and don’t forget everyone that the Durham staff are still suffering from Phil Brewer. I’m sure, also, that no-one wants the Brewers to get away without punishment, and there is also the concern that Interim Managers, unlike Administrators, are they to try to keep things going. I can’t see anyone wanting the work of SSG to continue in this country, as the only people who seem to have benefited are the Brewers, which is not the aim of a charity. I still fear that properties will be sold and that the money from the sales will disappear…

  10. I thought that on this blog anybody could take a pop and remain on good terms. Thought I’d take a pop at Phil Groom on Asingleblog.

  11. TEN shops?

  12. Pingback: SPCK/SSG Creditors saga – read this! – Maggi Dawn

  13. Am confused about this charity. According to the Charity Commission website charity 1119839 (St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust) was registered with the charity commission in August 2007 so how can the subsidary 1119839-1 be almagamised before the main body is registered?

  14. Phelim I think all of us have sore brains. How the CC can close down Chichester in 2009 which wasn’t even a charity and then give a cut off date of 2007 is beyond me. How TEN shops can be sold puzzles me even more. I can understand the five freeholds gifted to the Brewers being sold off but the others were still supposed to be SPCK properties. Newcastle is a point in case. My brain remains sore.


  16. I now have this picture of M & P doing (c)rap in Jedward haircuts and Phil Groom coming on stage with a pineapple on his head to spoil their act.
    Wish Peter Gotham would stop doing a Louis Walsh act, though, and vote `em off.

  17. Pingback: Concerns about call for SPCK/SSG Creditors « SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info

  18. Have uploaded a photo of the notice as posted in the Bookseller to my facebook page. Sorry it’s a bit fuzzy – taken with my mobile in fairly poor light; but just about legible.

  19. Pingback: Biblica and STL UK: A Strange Way to Attract Investors? « Phil's Boring Blog

  20. I felt that I had to add to this post. We are the recruitment agency that supplied the staff to the Brewers during 2008 / 2009. Although we had a good working relationship with Philip Brewer at the start we have been left out of pocket to the tune of £15,500. We thought that supplying staff to a Christian organisation would have been to some extent a “safe bet” only to be proved wrong. We are an independent aganecy and losing this amount of money is, as you can imagine a huge blow to us. As we were supplying ENC Shop Management we probbly have no claim from SSG charity. May I add that throughout this relationship all staff were paid in full every week and no one other than ourselves are out of pocket. It’s very sad reading through the posts that the Brewers won’t tough up and pay their creditors. Since they are based in the USA we are finding it increasingly difficult to speak with them, but we’re not going to give up.

  21. Phelim McIntyre

    Paul – thank you so much for your post and giving the recruitment agency side of the story. Like the staff who were tuped over or recruited after the Brewers took over the bookshop you have been treated horribly. This is why the Charity Commisson dealing only with SSG and over a limited time is such a worry. Do use the contact page https://spckssg.wordpress.com/help/contact-phil/ if you need to ask us anything such as checking proper contact details for Phil Brewer – anything will be treated confidentially.

    Also, please do not be put off working with Christian organisations as the Brewers are anything but normal examples of Christian business behaviour.

  22. Paul, you are a better person than Phil Brewer. Had we known who you were we would have warned you earlier. As Phelim says, “the Brewers are anything but normal examples of Christian business behaviour.” He knows what he is talking about. The regulars on this blog will help you in any way they can.

  23. Pingback: “Former-SPCK” Creditors: Letters to Church Times, The Bookseller « SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info

  24. Pingback: “Former-SPCK” Creditors: Letters to Church Times, The Bookseller « UKCBD: The Christian Bookshops Blog

  25. Pingback: Call for Brewer Creditors to Speak Out « UKCBD: The Christian Bookshops Blog

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