A facebook friend said she was having difficulties getting her head around the chaos so I offered this as a brief summary. Very much a personal perspective, of course: feel free to cite and publish elsewhere at will, but please be sure to include a link to this page as the original source. Thank you.
SPCK SSG: My Story
by Phil Groom
A brief overview here:
Essentially, back in 2006 the SPCK bookshops ran into financial difficulties and were looking for a way out. A proposed merger with Wesley Owen fell through and the St Stephen the Great Trust (SSG) — owned and operated by Messrs Mark and Philip Brewer — stepped in and offered to take on the business. SPCK breathed a huge sigh of relief and handed the bookshops over, lock, stock and barrel.
The Brewers then started screwing people’s contracts around, trying to impose new terms of employment that didn’t comply with UK employment law. They also started to narrow down the range of stock and stopped paying their suppliers. The best account describing how the bottom fell out of the business is probably this letter from Tom Arthur, minister of the URC church in Cardiff which provided a home for SPCK some years ago when they were no longer able to pay city rents:
Eventually, this year (2008), SSG filed for bankruptcy in the USA, a somewhat bizarre twist for a UK based company and charity: staff were sent a round-robin email to tell them that they were all unemployed but they could apply for jobs with a new company called “ENC Management Company”, which was soon discovered to also belong to the Brewers. In one fell swoop they’d managed to transfer the ownership of the shops and stock to another company owned by themselves but, it seemed, managed to leave all their debts and employees behind… quite some trail of destruction that left staff in a state of absolute despair. In Worcester, tragically, the situation got so bad that the former shop manager committed suicide:
Dave Walker and myself had each been independently reporting on the story on our websites and this year I set up a separate, dedicated blog to allow for more focused reporting and discussions. Unfortunately the Brewers didn’t like people talking about the way they were running things etc so they decided to try and nail us down by sending out ‘Cease and Desist’ (C&D) messages threatening legal action if we didn’t take down our websites.
Dave complied. I didn’t: I was on holiday so couldn’t do anything anyway. I got back from holiday to find the C&D’s waiting for me, thought about it for a couple of days and decided to join forces with other outraged bloggers fighting back. I was particularly riled because one of the pages he’d demanded I take down was a page I’d set up to raise funds to support the booksellers; and got even more riled when I realised that in bullying Dave Walker to take down his pages, Brewer had killed off a page of tributes to the guy from Worcester.
So now there’s me and any number of other bloggers revealing the truth about the Brewers… we’re still awaiting a response from the Brewers but in the meantime I want to see it shouted from the rooftops, across facebook, across the world. I want to see a retraction of his take-down demands; to see his employees paid the wages and pension contributions that are due to them; and I want to see Dave’s lost posts restored. Let the world know that the truth will not be silenced by bullying lawyers in Texas.
It’d be kinda nice to get an apology for the false allegations he’s made about me as well, but that’s another story.
Thanks for reading. Hope that makes a bit more sense of it for you.
All the best,