Category Archives: Letters for Mark Brewer

Questions for J Mark Brewer: SPCK Bookshops Asset Stripping. Ministry of Truth cross-post.

Cross-post from the Wardman Wire: Matt Wardman writes:

stand-up-spck-upIn the second half of 2008, I devoted a lot of time and space to a campaign to expose the way in which a a pair of Texan Brothers, J Mark and Philip Brewer, had been despoiling and asset stripping the chain of bookshops that used to be owned by the SPCK Christian Charity.

Their activities include bullying, sackings by email, large property transactions that appear to be fraudulent, having an attempt to take a UK-based charity into liquidation in the USA “dismissed with prejudice” and much more. You can read about it in great depth at the SPCK/SSG News Blog. There are also in excess of 30 Employment Tribunal claims – from a previous workforce of only a couple of hundred. The questions in this post only scratch the surface of a 2 year saga.

I been off this campaign for several months, due to family complications as I mentioned previously.

Now, however, Unity from the Ministry of Truth, who has been working on this campaign as well, has discovered that someone has pushed Google into delisting one of his key articles.

Read Unity’s account of the immediate background over at Liberal Conspiracy.

This is the full text of the article excluded from Google, which is a set of questions Unity sent to J Mark Brewer asking him to account for his actions.

I’ve noticed that a few bloggers have taken to sending “I am Dave Walker” e-mails to J Mark Brewer at his office e-mail address. I’m not sure quite how wise a move that is on its own, although his rather santimonius comments in reply are quite amusing.

That said, I’ve taken the liberty of send Brewer an e-mail of my own, as there are a few questions I’d like him to answer:

Dear Mr Brewer,

Having reviewed the documents filed with the US Bankruptcy Court in relation to the chapter 7 application by ‘SSG LLC’?

1. It has been suggested that St Stephen the Great LLC, the company name used in the chapter 11/7 application does not exist as a legal entity – is this true and, if so, why was the application filed in this name, which was also used in the redundancy notices issues to employees of SPCK?

2. It has also been suggested that the actual legal entity to which the application relates is St Stephen the Great Ltd/St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust, a UK registered company/charity. Is this the case and, if so, can you explain why you are seeking to liquidate a UK registered entity in a US bankruptcy court?

3. The schedule of creditors indicates that the largest creditor of ‘SSG LLC’ is the Orthodox Church Mission Fund of Houston and that, in addition to payments of around $325,000 to this organisation from the funds of ‘SSG LLC’ since September 07, including $75,000 or so just prior to announcing that it would go into chapter 11, there is still an outstanding balance of $494,000. How is that that a charity running a chain of Christian book shops in the UK can come to owe a US-based private grant making foundation over $800,000?

4. Assuming that the ‘SSG LLC’ named in these papers is the UK registered charity, were the Charity Commission notified that it has incurred debts of this size and have they been notified that you are seeking to liquidate the charity in the US?

5. The schedule of payments made in the 90 days prior to the bankruptcy application shows payments of around $110,000 to your law firm, with an outstanding balance of £56,000. Given that you are a trustee of the charity, did you obtain the assent of the Charity Commission as a trustee of the charity before contracting out legal work to you own law firm or confirm with them that this would not be considered an unlawful trustee benefit?

6. I note that responsibility for those SPCK stores that remain open in the UK has transferred to a company called ENC Shop Management, but for two shops in Durham and Chichester Cathedral which operate as separate entities. In all case, however, you remain a director of these companies having been a director/trustee of SSG/SSGCT. Were any of the assets of SSG/SSGCT transferred to these companies and, if so, when did the transfer take place and what authorisation, if any, did you obtain for the Charity Commission for such a transfer?

Finally,

7. Given that that you issued a ‘cease and desist’ notice to cartoonist Dave Walker on the same day that Randy Walker filed a motion to dismiss this application which note a considerable number of serious discrepancies in the application, is it not reasonable to infer that that the notice sent to Mr Walker was prompted by a desire on your part to prevent him from commenting on and publicising the content of the motion to dismiss?

Regards

Unity
www.ministryoftruth.me.uk

If I get a response from him, you’ll read it here first

“all i did was work for them”

Phil Groom writes:

So writes Lindsey Stokes, another ex-SPCK/SSG worker who hasn’t received her pay despite Mark Brewer’s insistence that he has paid her:

i did loads of overtime so i could afford to go on holiday and then had the shock when the Brewers didn’t pay me so i then had to go into debt and use my credit card so i could go. I contacted acas about my wages and got a letter back from Mark Brewer saying that he had paid me when he hadn’t, now im going to have to send all my bank statements as prove that i haven’t been paid. I’m fed up of the Brewers messing me about all i did was work for them i don’t deserve this.

What Lindsey does deserve, of course, is her wages. The amount due to her is £625.60. If she has been paid, that’s great: another small step in the right direction — thanks and kudos to Mark Brewer. The delay in payment going through may, like Pauline’s, be due to the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. Maybe someone could check and let us know, please?

Nonetheless the fact remains that a letter, dated September 8th 2008, has been sent confirming the payment. If enough time has gone by for ACAS to receive and review that letter and ask Lindsey for her bank statements, then surely enough time has gone by for a bank transfer to go through as well, even given the current state of the financial markets?

It’s tempting to compare Lindsey’s outstanding £625.60 with Mark Brewer’s own $75,000 fee for providing legal services to his own company… but let’s not go down that road. I’ll make a suggestion instead: it’s a matter of public record now that Brewer’s legal services rendered to SSG with respect to the bankruptcy filing were substandard. Perhaps a refund is due? That $75,000 would go quite a way towards those outstanding wage bills…

.

Update, 8pm, 25/09/2008: When I prepared this report yesterday, I gave Mark Brewer the benefit of the doubt, allowing the possibility that the delay in Lindsey’s payment might be due to Hurricane Ike. Further research makes me sceptical: Mark Brewer’s letter confirming payment was dated September 8th; Hurricane Ike didn’t hit Texas until September 13th, five days later. Definitely more than enough time for a bank payment to have gone through…

J Mark Brewer, I Salute You. Briefly.

Such, unfortunately, is the nature of a salute: it’s a sign of respect, but it’s very short lived. Nonetheless, credit where it’s due: as Matt Wardman noted in his latest weekly roundup, within ten days of ToyboxColin expressing his distress at being unpaid, you paid him: thank you.

On July 8th, ToyboxColin wrote:

Am I representing the first supplier to the former SPCK shops who has decided to make a comment on this blog? We are a Christian Charity who sold Christmas Cards and a few other Latin American Crafts to the shops last Autumn for which we have not been paid. Not a huge debt but significant to us! This site and the Cartoon Blog seems to eb the only place to find out what is going on with all this Bankruptcy and Liquidation nonsense. It’s about time the Brewers owned up to their total incompetence to run anything – including a bath!

On July 18th, he wrote:

Surprise, surprise………we’ve been paid IN FULL, including the Court Costs for filing a claim, direct from ENC in the USA! Wonder if other suppliers have???

But it gets better than that: when Pauline Edwards expressed her distress at her friend’s situation — also picked up on by the Revd Sam Norton and the Revd Dr Christian Troll —  just six days later, you paid that friend: thank you. 

On August 2nd, Pauline wrote:

Mr Brewer,
Could you tell me please, why you told a fellow worker, that there job was safe, and it was o.k. to take there first mortgage out to buy a house. The fellow worker trusted you, after asking you a few times. That fellow worker has took the biggest debt ever, on your assurance, and was only in there new home 2 days, when they were sacked by email, and left this person with no wages to pay there first mortage payment.
Does this ring a bell Mr Brewer?

On August 8th, she wrote:

GUESS WHAT everyone, that fellow worker, has been payed today. Maybe Mr Brewer read the blog I posted, and realised He had put that fellow worker in a mess with the mortgage. He does have a heart after all. He still hasn’t payed me though.

Once again, THANK YOU Mr Brewer, I have spoken to Tammy, you have made her a very happy girl. I mean it THANK YOU. She is a great girl, and you have took a great weight off her shoulders!!!

This is good news, Mark, and this is why I offer you this brief salute.

But Pauline herself apparently remains unpaid. And she is not alone. You know that, Mark: you know how many workers you haven’t paid and you know all the suppliers you haven’t paid.

And if the St Stephen the Great Trust or the ENC Management Company — or whatever other guise you’re trading under now — can afford to pay you $75,000 in legal fees for your services at Brewer and Pritchard, it can certainly afford to pay its workers their wages, with some to spare for the suppliers too.

Please pay them. It shouldn’t be necessary for them to have to cry out against you on a public forum such as this. It certainly shouldn’t be necessary for me to have to spell this out for you. This blog shouldn’t be necessary.

You wanted me silenced. Here’s how you can achieve that: not through belligerence and bullying but by paying your workers and suppliers… and last but not least, by withdrawing your threats against me, my colleagues and friends.

And, of course, any donation you’d care to make to the Save the SPCK Booksellers fund in the meantime will be very welcome: thank you.

More Letters for J Mark Brewer

Today we present two letters for Mark Brewer, both submitted as comments over the weekend:

From Revd Eric:

Dear Mr Brewer,

This is neither to be defamatory nor vile. I must simply remind you that in February of this year you failed to attend a meeting that you arranged with my wife, among others. You did not attempt to contact her or any of the other participants instead you chose to be in Cambridge and on the television. I spoke to you at the Cambridge shop to acertain your presence there.

How can you complain of the vile and defamatory language, which I confess I have failed to spot, when your own rudeness is so noticeable and hurtful. I hope to meet you again at my wife’s tribunal hearing and, of course, I continue to pray for you and the booksellers who once so faithfully served the Lord through their commitment to their customers.

Yours in Christ,

Eric 

From Pauline Edwards:

Mr Brewer,

Could you tell me please, why you told a fellow worker, that there job was safe, and it was o.k. to take there first mortgage out to buy a house. The fellow worker trusted you, after asking you a few times. That fellow worker has took the biggest debt ever, on your assurance, and was only in there new home 2 days, when they were sacked by email, and left this person with no wages to pay there first mortage payment.

Does this ring a bell Mr Brewer?

Since Mark has demanded the removal of https://spckssg.wordpress.com/tag/mark-brewer/ (which now includes this page) I guess we can be fairly confident that he’s spotted them by now. Mark’s good friend and mentor, the Revd Doctor Christian Troll, has seen them and graciously cited them on his site, but he says Mark hasn’t paid his fees so I suspect he may not have forwarded them to him yet.

Pauline’s letter has also been picked up by Sam Norton, who asks, Does anyone else think this qualifies as “incompetence and injustice”? Not an unreasonable question. What say you, Mr Brewer? Is this how you treat your employees at Brewer & Pritchard? Or is it special treatment reserved for us Brits?

A Law Firm Devoted to Service. Apparently.

A Law Firm Devoted to Service. Apparently.

Nice. If anyone else would like to forward Eric and Pauline’s correspondence to these exceptionally well trained folk devoted to service, you’ll find a warm welcome to send in “any questions or comments you may have” on the company website, either by email or via a convenient online form.

Mark’s email address is also available courtesy of MadPriest but I’m not suggesting an all-out attack like MadPriest’s campaign, although I’ll admit I did find that rather amusing: just a few should be enough to make the point. This isn’t a game: we’re dealing with serious issues and I want Mark to know that we mean business: we don’t want him giving us the sort of silly response he’s been giving to MadPriest.

When you write, please remember to point out that these are open letters: they deserve an open response, preferably here.

Finally, if you’re concerned that Mark might put a confidentiality notice on his reply in an attempt to prevent you from sharing it here, don’t worry, you’re in good company. Feel free to invoke this site’s terms of use in your correspondence and please do let us know what replies, if any, you receive.

We’re looking forward to hearing from you soon, please, Mark: your comments are always welcome. 

Thank you.

 

Sunday Sermon

Being Sunday, I figured we needed a sermon. Except it isn’t really a sermon: it’s the article I wrote for the August issue of Christian Marketplace magazine, but it was pulled at the last minute when Mark Brewer sent his friendly request to ‘Cease and Desist’. So for anyone who’s wondering why there’s no magazine contribution from me this month, now you know. Essentially the article is an introduction to this blog, written before Dave Walker’s situation blew up…


Another Christian Bookshop Blog

June this year saw the launch of another Christian bookshop blog: “SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info”. In the ideal world it’s a blog that should never have been necessary, but in the real world it should have been born much earlier. You’ll find it at spckssg.wordpress.com but be warned: in the words of Neil Denham, an ex-Exeter SPCK employee, “some of the commenters are very bitter and it does not make very happy reading!” (exeterblog.blogspot.com).

Alongside the bitterness you’ll find anger, a sense of betrayal, confusion and – perhaps most of all – grief: in short, the legacy left to the UK Christian book trade by Mark Brewer and his St Stephen the Great Trust. Mark Brewer himself (or, since we cannot be entirely certain of identities online, someone posting under his name [1]) has generously taken time out of his busy schedule to respond to the concerns of his customers, ex-employees and suppliers, offering the following pithy observations, both posted on July 6th, the eve of Steve Jeyne’s memorial service (reported on elsewhere):

In response to my call for a boycott of the SSG shops, Brewer writes, “What a great idea! Boycott! How very Christian of you” and, in response to the post “SSG tribunal claims mount”, he writes, “Now that SSG is in liquidation, you and your most of your readers must be elated… except whatever will you find to write about and who will you now slander?”

With respect to boycotting the SSG bookshops, my feeling is that a mere boycott is not Christian enough: Christianity is about following Jesus and the Jesus I read about in the Gospels had no qualms when it came to driving out unscrupulous traders from the temple. Jesus’ comment about turning a house of prayer into a den of thieves seems apposite in view of the Brewers’ record of unpaid employees and suppliers: I remain astonished that Durham Cathedral in particular continues to allow them – in whatever guise they now use – to trade from their premises.

With respect to SSG’s liquidation, a number of people have replied but this, from ‘Pax Vobiscum’, perhaps expresses best how many affected by the situation feel:

Dear Mark Brewer

The 600+ people who filled Worcester Cathedral on Monday for the Thanksgiving Service following the funeral of Steve Jeynes were not elated. They wanted to give thanks for a wonderful life of Christian witness, for a dedicated Christian Bookseller who had brought many to faith and for a husband, father, friend who meant so much to them. They were shocked, saddened, angry, but they were not elated.

The 100+ Christian Booksellers around the country who have had their careers, their ministries thrown in the gutter over the past year are not elated. They are upset, angry, struggling to rebuild their lives.

The myriad suppliers, who have not been paid are not elated. They are downhearted, some made financially unstable, others have lost an integral outlet for their goods.

The Christian communities which relied on their SPCK Bookshop as a resource centre for their mission and spiritual growth are not elated. Some, like Worcester, feel that one of their vital organs has been ripped out and stomped upon.

What has happened to the SPCK/SSG Bookshops over the last 18 months has caused so much needless hurt, so much pain, so much impoverishment of certain areas of the Christian faith in the UK that it is impossible to feel elation over the ‘bankruptcy’ of SSG. Only relief that this whole sorry episode is drawing to a close.

As well as updates on the ongoing situation the blog includes what should become a comprehensive index of news reports, blog posts and other related articles which should prove useful to journalists and other researchers.

If you are amongst those affected – whether as a concerned customer, an
(ex-)employee, a supplier or in any other way – please do take time to visit and join in the discussions: it’s an open forum which, I very much hope, will not only provide a catharsis but also help us find a way forward…

Phil Groom, Friday, July 11, 2008
679 words.

Phil Groom is webmaster and reviews editor of the UK Christian Bookshops Directory, a free online guide to the UK’s Christian Bookshops. Unless otherwise stated the opinions expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Marketplace or its publishers.


Re-reading that, I honestly can’t see why it had to pulled, especially with such a very clear disclaimer on the end. There’s nothing there that goes beyond perfectly legitimate reporting and fair comment. What do you think?
Please note that no criticism of Clem Jackson is implied in this observation.

Notes
1. See: SSG/SPCK – Will the real Mark Brewer please stand up? Metacatholic, 17/07/2008 and The Mark Brewer Saga: weirder than you think, MetaCatholic, 03/08/2008. My parenthesised comment is part of the original article as written and submitted to Christian Marketplace on 11/07/2008.