Tag Archives: J Mark Brewer

Freeholds Reclaimed, Disbursements and Pension Fund top-ups promised as SPCK settle dispute with SSG

IT’S BEEN A SLOW TRAIN COMING, but SPCK have at long last drawn a line under their long-running legal dispute with SSG, the charity set up by Phil & Mark Brewer to run, but which ultimately ruined, the the former SPCK bookshops. In a news bulletin posted yesterday, Friday 14th September 2012 — just short of six years since the original handover of the shops to SSG was announced — SPCK declared that it had “finally concluded” the matter with “a predicated settlement involving the return of some shop freeholds or their realised value” and further anticipated “substantial disbursements – as yet unquantified – and legal costs which will be clarified in the coming months.”

Describing the settlement, Simon Kingston went on to say,

In particular, SPCK is committed to paying substantial sums into the fund relating to the pension which was operating in the days of the shops.

Congratulations must be made to Simon in particular for his quiet determination and persistence in pursuing this matter to a conclusion. The damage done by the Brewer brothers can never be undone but most of those who suffered at their hands should now be able to begin to look forward to a brighter future and, hopefully, some measure of restitution.

SPCK News: SPCK Legal Dispute Concluded

SPCK News: SPCK Legal Dispute Concluded

Full Statement: SPCK Legal Dispute Concluded

SPCK is pleased to announce that it has finally concluded its long legal dispute with Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust. Simon Kingston, CEO and General Secretary, says: “We are very glad to have brought this difficult matter to a conclusion at last. It has been painful for everybody, and particularly for the staff of our former shops. We therefore welcome the news that SSGCT is unlikely to continue as a charity.

“We are now in a better position to focus all our energies on our core aim of bringing knowledge of the Christian faith to the whole world.”

As part of the agreement, SPCK receives a predicated settlement involving the return of some shop freeholds or their realised value. This will be reflected in SPCK’s annual accounts. However, we anticipate substantial disbursements – as yet unquantified – and legal costs which will be clarified in the coming months.

“Funds from this settlement will be vital at a time that is so challenging financially,” said Mr Kingston. “In particular, SPCK is committed to paying substantial sums into the fund relating to the pension which was operating in the days of the shops.”

The Rt Revd John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford, Chair of SPCK, also welcomed the announcement. “This is good news for SPCK and good news for the Church. Now that this is resolved, SPCK can look to the future with confidence.

“And there is plenty to celebrate. Last year, for example, SPCK gave away 12,000 International Study Guides to students training for ministry in some of the poorest parts of the world. Closer to home, the (free) Assemblies website had 37 million hits, and the charity sold over a third of a million books in the UK and another 300,000 overseas. There are more exciting developments in hand for 2012, including the launch of resources supporting literacy in prisons.”

 

2010: SPCK/SSG Blog Overview

Phil Groom writes:

THANK YOU to the stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com for the following snapshot summary of how this blog did in 2010; but EVEN BIGGER THANKS to you, its readers, without whose involvement it would all be dust and ashes. I guess the good news is that those money-grubbing scoundrels, Messrs Phil Brewer and J Mark Brewer, no longer have their snouts in the trough since it all turned to dust and ashes in their mouths, although Phil Brewer still has the audacity to brag about his involvement in the whole sorry story as if it were some sort of success. Nuff said: here’s the breakdown from 2010:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy Numbers

Featured image

About 3 million people visit the Taj Mahal every year. This blog was viewed about 34,000 times in 2010. If it were the Taj Mahal, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.

In 2010, there were 17 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 278 posts. There were 17 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 4mb. That’s about a picture per month.

The busiest day of the year was January 22nd with 418 views. The most popular post that day was Removals Fairies Strike at former SPCK Bookshop, Chester.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were christianbookshops.org.uk, christianbookshopsblog.org.uk, facebook.com, mattwardman.com, and twitter.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for proposal to strike off, spck ssg, spck, active – proposal to strike off, and gemstar exeter.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Removals Fairies Strike at former SPCK Bookshop, Chester January 2010
28 comments

2

SSG at Companies House: “Status: Active – Proposal to Strike off” January 2009
14 comments

3

Final Former-SPCK Bookshop Expels Philip Brewer: Durham Cathedral January 2010
37 comments

4

Durham: Cathedral Shop Reopens March 2010
24 comments

5

A Tangled Web for Creditors as Durham Cathedral announces plans to Re-Open Shop under its own Management February 2010
36 comments

Durham Cathedral Staff Tribunal Starts

Our thanks to Valiant For Truth for bringing to our attention that in The Journal Newspaper yesterday there was an article of great import to those who frequent this site,

Durham Cathedral Bookshop Staff Launch Legal Fight

This in many ways marks the official start of Durham Staff in their fight for Justice against the Brewer Brothers and their tactics of playing fast and loose with employment law and the rights of workers to be treated fairly and dismissed in a right way.

However Durham Cathedral itself via their trading arm are also in the dock as it were, again something that may not come as any great surprise to readers of this blog who have at times been dismayed, upset and hurt by some of the Cathedrals inactions and actions throughout the saga.

The article begins by saying:

CATHEDRAL bosses could become embroiled in a complex legal fight after bookshop staff launched tribunal proceedings.

Six workers at Durham Cathedral’s bookshop are seeking compensation after their employment was allegedly terminated when the shop unexpectedly closed on January 22 this year.

But confusion has arisen over who is potentially liable for any payouts and proceedings have been listed against several different companies, including the cathedral’s trading arm, Durham Cathedral Trading Ltd.

The article then goes on to say:

Miss Jeram, representing the Trust, (inserted clarification for blog readers – that’s SSGCT) said: “There are a number of uncertainties. There has been a great deal of confusion right from the beginning over their employer.

“The only issues can be who the employer was immediately prior to the closing of the bookshop and who the employer was at any time after that, in the period between January 22 and March 1.

“We’ve got to consider whether the claims should be struck out against the first respondent. At some point after June 2007 and before July 2008 it is my understanding that the Brewers attempted to wind up SSG LLC in Houston. After that time their employer could not have been SSG so it would have become the Durham Cathedral Shop Management Company.”

Claims against employers involve redundancy pay, unfair dismissal, breach of contract and unpaid work.

Sara Brody, representing the staff on behalf of shop workers union Usdaw at the hearing, argued the Trust should remain on the list of potential employers.

She said: “The claimants believe the Trust was their employer throughout, so their primary claim is against the Trust.”

Last year Durham cathedral bosses served SSG notice to vacate the shop, the last in the UK to be involved with the Trust, by May of this year.

Again these issues as raised are nothing new to anyone aquainted with this situation, previous tribunal actions and this blog.

So again we would ask that anyone who has any information, paperwork or correspondence of any sort that could help USDAW and the Durham staff to clear up the issue of employers please do get in touch with them directly.  Anything that demonstrates who people believed they were doing business with or indeed were doing business with during the time frames mentioned can all help in proving who the employers were and give credence to the staffs perception of employer, so please do get in touch with USDAW and offer your help to them in making sure justice is again done.

As always our thoughts are with those involved in this action and we hope for a swift and just outcome for the Staff at Durham.

The Day we lost Dave

Phil Groom writes:

Yesterday I backtracked to J Mark Brewer’s attempts to silence my own blogging: Cease and Desist: One Year On

Today, a simple reminder that this is the day we lost Dave Walker from the ‘Save the SPCK’ campaign last year. Here’s Dave’s final SPCK Bookshops post from his Cartoon Church blog:

Tuesday, 22 July 2008
‘Cease and desist’ demand from Mark Brewer

This morning I was sent a ‘cease and desist’ demand from Mark Brewer relating to the posts I have made about the former SPCK bookshops. The demand says ‘Confidential – not to be redistributed or posted’, so I am not posting the text.

The demand says that if I do not remove all SSG-related material by noon today, July 22, 2008, an injunction will be sought against me and legal action taken for damages for libel.

I have therefore removed all of the SPCK/SSG posts on this blog, as, although I believe I have not done anything wrong I do not have the money to face a legal battle. The removal of these posts is in no way an admission of guilt.

To say I am not happy about the decision I have been forced to take here is an understatement. I feel as if I have let many people down who have relied on this site over the last year or more.

I am not allowing comments on this post, though I can be contacted as usual. I cannot of course stop you writing about this elsewhere.

LABELS: BLOGGINGSAVE THE SPCK

Then that post disappeared. Then the blogosphere exploded.

As most readers no doubt know, all of Dave’s missing posts have been reinstated (without comments, unfortunately) at opendebatenotlibelthreats.blogspot.com, from where this post has been retrieved.

The rest, as they say, is history…

Cease and Desist: One Year On

Phil Groom writes:

J Mark 'Bully Boy' Brewer

J Mark ‘Bully Boy’ Brewer

Where were you on July 21st 2008?

Whilst I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a date permanently etched in my memory, it’s a date I certainly won’t forget in a hurry: it’s the date J Mark ‘Bully Boy’ Brewer (shown right, screen grab from Fox News), Principal of Texas law firm, attorneys and counselors, Brewer and Pritchard PC,  issued the first of his now notorious ‘Cease and Desist’ messages, threatening me, my friends and my colleagues with legal action if we didn’t stop reporting on his abuse of his staff and his mismanagement of the former SPCK bookshops.

Of course, those weren’t the terms he used: he was — and sadly, still seems to be — a man in denial, a man who wanted to hide the evidence of his misdemeanours and was preparing the way for his equally notorious bankruptcy scam on the Texas courts.

His threats if I failed to comply with his demands were all-embracing:

If you do not do so; i.e., remove your websites by noon GMT July 22, 2008, I will seek an injunction against you, your colleagues, associates and companies.  I also will take legal action against each of you for damages for libel.  In that event, I will also subpoena all records relating to the persons whom you have allowed to post defamatory material on your website in order to add them as defendants.

Mark Brewer

Unfortunately for Mr Brewer but fortunately for me, I was on holiday at the time, without internet access. The first I knew of Brewer breathing threats (if not quite murder) against me was when my friend Clem Jackson, Editor of Christian Marketplace (CM) magazine, left a message on my mobile to tell me that he and Dave Walker had also been threatened. Since there was nothing I could do about it short of abandoning my holiday, which I wasn’t inclined to do, I phoned Clem back and left him a message to suggest that perhaps Mr Brewer needed a holiday too (OK, that’s the response I wish I’d made: honestly can’t remember what I really said).

Dave’s and CM‘s responses to Brewer’s threats are well documented: Dave took down his Save the SPCK posts, the offending report in CM was removed and my forthcoming column for CM — ironically enough, introducing this blog — was pulled at the last minute (please note that no criticism of either Clem or Dave is implied or intended in that observation). I, on the other hand, had the luxury of my holiday to reflect on what was going on, came back to see the groundswell of support for Dave, and decided — with the encouragement, help and support of friends too numerous to mention — to stand my ground. Two friends in particular stand out, however: David Keen and Matt Wardman — to them I am especially indebted.

I am glad that I did stand my ground and I take this opportunity to thank David, Matt and all my other blogging friends because now, one year later, we see the tables comprehensively turned on J Mark Brewer: the Charity Commission have taken over the St Stephen the Great Trust, have seen through the ‘ENC Shop Management Company’ scam and have seized control of the shops.

Wresting the shops from Brewer’s personal control, however, is but one part of the battle: former employees and many suppliers remain unpaid; and whilst the Charity Commission have seized control of the premises, photos taken in Winchester yesterday (watch this space) testify that they are not quite on top of the company correspondence.

For my own part, then, the fight goes on, for the same reasons I gave to the We Support Dave Walker facebook group back in August last year:

What’s this all about?
To me, the key things are:
• Justice for the (ex-)SPCK/SSG booksellers and unpaid suppliers
• The right to free speech
• Keeping information available

What do I hope to achieve?
• Payment of unpaid wages and invoices
• Honest reporting and open discussion
• Full reinstatement of Dave’s missing posts and comments

To conclude for today, however, a few links, including last year’s C&D discussions here, in date order as I eventually posted them:

The original C&D correspondence, in pdf:

  1. Demand to Cease and Desist 21st July 2008
  2. Second and Final Demand to Cease and Desist 22nd July 2008
  3. Please Remove this Web Page Immediately 22nd July 2008

An excerpt: the so-called ‘Legal Demand’ with the pages/links he wanted me to take down:

Legal Demand

I hereby demand that you cease and desist from doing any of these things any more. I specifically demand that you deactivate your webpages, websites and/or blogsites devoted to me, my brother, my family, SSG and/or SSGCT IMMEDIATELY. These include:

  1. https://spckssg.wordpress.com/tag/mark-brewer/
  2. www.unicorntreebooks.blogspot.com/
  3. http://www.christianmarketplace.org.uk/engine.cfm?i=45&cmid=4091 *
  4. http://www.christianbookshops.org.uk/news.htm#ssg060208 (Betrayed by the Brewers: Lies, Damned Lies and St Stephen the Great)
  5. http://www.christianbookshops.org.uk/spckdonate.htm (Support SPCK’s Booksellers, and the Phil Groom administered “fund”)

* Although the CM article was taken offline, it couldn’t be taken out of print: reproduced here: Breaking the Silence

For comparison: Cease and Desist: 6 Months On

Faking it in Canterbury and Google in a Kerfuffle

Phil Groom writes:

Thank you to Richard Long for bringing us this latest picture from Canterbury, showing the former SPCK/SSG all brightly painted and decked out as ‘Canterbury Christian Bookshop’:

Canterbury Christian Bookshop, 05/07/2009

Canterbury Christian Bookshop, July 2009

Richard writes:

I don’t actually know what the current status of the ‘Canterbury Christian Bookshop’ is, but anyone who has been following the saga of the former SPCK shops will not be surprised to learn that it was shut when we visited on a busy Saturday afternoon. Despite the fresh coat of red paint, hand-written signs on the door told a slightly different story. The shop appears to be open about 4 days a week, and was appealing for both volunteer staff and second-hand books.

Somewhat bizarrely, our dear friends at Google seem to have got themselves into a kerfuffle over who owns or operates or does whatever is being done to this particular shop as well: their search results link it to Canterbury City Council:

Google Search Result for 'Canterbury Christian Bookshop'

Google Search Result for 'Canterbury Christian Bookshop'

Maybe Google are right and there’s actually a religious revival going on in Canterbury — it is the seat of Archdruid Rowan, after all — but I suspect genuine confusion is closer to the truth; and if even Google are getting themselves so kerfuffulated, what chance is there for the rest of us?

The shop has certainly changed since the last photo we had back in February 2008 when Dave Walker posted about it. Dave’s original post isn’t available, of course, since Mr J Mark ‘Bully Boy’ Brewer huffed and puffed in his ultimately futile attempt to blow the evidence away this time last year, but here’s a screenshot from the archives at Cease & Desist:

In Canterbury - Dave Walker, 12 Feb 2008

In Canterbury - Dave Walker, 12 Feb 2008

The question now is who is responsible for this shop? If either Peter Gotham or Fergus Jack should happen to read this, I’d urge you, gentlemen: please get over there now and take control of the premises before there are any further unauthorised auctions, rebranding exercises or asset shuffling. Please don’t let Canterbury go the way of Exeter.

Thank you.

Tribunals: Next Round Begins

Phil Groom writes:

Please spare a thought and/or pray for everyone involved in the next round of Employment Tribunals, which start today.

The Charity Commission’s appointment of an Interim Manager is good news on the one hand in that at last an outside agency is responding to the Brewers depredations of the former SPCK bookshops; but on the other hand, the solicitors appointed by the Interim Manager have specific responsibility “to preserve the assets of the charity and contest the legal claims of the Usdaw members.”

Let justice roll on like a river!

USDAW Statement as reported on the Church Times blog:

St. Stephen the Great tribunal

The long-awaited first stage of the St. Stephen the Great tribunal is due to take place next week in Bury St. Edmunds, commencing Monday 11 May, and is scheduled to run for three days. This is a preliminary hearing to consider who the employer of the claimants was at the time they were dismissed (the charitable trust, or one of the two limited companies).

Since the date was arranged, the Charity Commission has been conducting an investigation into how the charitable trust has been run and has now used its powers under the Charities Act to intervene and appoint an interim manager to manage the affairs of the charity (in place of the previous trustees, who were the American-based Mark Brewer and other members of his family). The interim manager has, in turn, appointed new solicitors to preserve the assets of the charity and contest the legal claims of the Usdaw members.

These new solicitors asked the tribunal to postpone the hearing in order to allow extra time for them to get up to speed with the cases. But Usdaw objected, as our members had been waiting so long for their cases to be heard. The hearing will now commence on the Monday morning with legal arguments for and against the granting of a postponement of the tribunal.

Usdaw is hoping that the court will consider the best interests of the claimants, who have waited patiently for justice, three of whom will be travelling to Bury St. Edmunds to appear as test case witnesses on behalf of all those dismissed, and allow the case to continue on the day.