Tag Archives: Phil Brewer

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

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You too can own a half-price church courtesy of St Stephen the Great

Phil Groom writes:

LET’S FACE IT, with Phil Brewer and Mark Brewer off his back, what use does St Stephen the Great have for a church these days? He can’t even let it out as a B&B — sorry, I mean use it as “hospitality units for the Charity” — so it’s yours, half-price for Christmas: was £250,000; now £125,000, put up for sale, I’m reliably informed, “By Order of P Gotham, Interim Manager, St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust”:

Mary Magdalene Orthodox Church, Bradford: Attractive well maintained grade 2 Listed church building. Suitable for a variety of community/commercial uses - subject to consents. PRICE NOW REDUCED FROM £250,000 TO £125,000!

Mary Magdalene Orthodox Church, Bradford: Attractive well maintained grade 2 Listed church building. Suitable for a variety of community/commercial uses - subject to consents. PRICE NOW REDUCED FROM £250,000 TO £125,000!

Property Search Results from sharmawilliamson.co.uk/property_search.php: type ‘church’ in the search box. Also advertised as ‘Offers Invited’:

Mary Magdalene Church, Bradford: Offers Invited
Mary Magdalene Church, Bradford: Offers Invited

This is one of at least two ‘redundant’ churches that were handed over to the Brewer brothers by the Church of England, the other being St Osmund’s in Poole, Dorset, renamed St Stephen the Great by the Brewers in 2007 then abandoned by the priest and congregation back in 2008. According to the Orthodox Wiki, which may or may not be a reliable source of information, between them the two properties are “valued in excess of £12,000,000”. Whatever the true value and whatever the outcome of this particular sale, one can only hope that the proceeds will go to those ripped off  by the Brewers — sorry, I mean those who’ve benefited from Phil Brewer’s “Major Business Accomplishments”, as set out by him for Halloween this year:

Screenshot: philbrewer.com

philbrewer.com: Trick or Treat?

Major Business Accomplishments
President of an international Orthodox Christian charity, Churches & hospitality units, sales exceeding £4 Million ($8 Million) annually.

  • 24 retail bookshops, 180+ employees located throughout the United Kingdom.
  • In this capacity, responsibilities included hiring, coaching and training retail store managers.
  • Developed flat world approach to management structure for flexibility and cost savings.
  • Implemented vibrant web presence.
  • Overseeing purchasing, suppliers, manufacturers.
  • Acquired redundant Churches from the Church of England. Responsible for maintaining Churches and bringing them back to use as Christian Churches for the Orthodox Church.
  • Established hospitality units for the Charity.

Flat world approach indeed. One can only hope that anyone thinking of signing up for the services of Flintdale Medical, one of Phil Brewer’s current projects, does a little research before parting with any cash…

Final Former-SPCK Bookshop Expels Philip Brewer: Durham Cathedral

Matt Wardman writes:

Today we have a victory: the last bookshop in the country to remain in control of J Mark and Philip Brewer, the Shyster-Charlatans who have taken hundreds of thousands of pounds from the chain, while abusing and exploiting staff, has been closed. It was in Durham Cathedral, and will soon be re-opened under proper control.

20100121-durham-cathedral-sanctuary-knocker-flickr-artiii-2557245050 de57bb76db

Durham Cathedral Sanctuary Knocker

Photo credit: Artiii on Flickr

This our most important milestone for some months, and we are pleased that Durham Cathedral have acted. As Dave Walker at the Church Time blog has put it:

The end of St Stephen the Great in the UK

The Durham Cathedral shop was the last remaining former SPCK bookshop run by the St Stephen the Great charity (SSG). SSG were given the bookshops by SPCK in 2006.

This is the full text of the notice at the Durham Cathedral website:

The Cathedral Shop temporary closure

The Shop which was managed by St Stephen the Great is now closed.

A new shop under the management of The Cathedral Chapter will open in due course.

Please check the Cathedral Website for the latest news.

(Posted on Friday 22nd January 2010)

No more comment yet, but we are all allowing oursleves to dance a small jig at this point.

However we are still watching, because there are the interests of the members of staff at stake here, and then there will be the small question of what sort of shop will be reopened.

20100121-durham-cathedral-sanctuary-knocker-flickr-artiii-2557245050 de57bb76db

Finding Phil Brewer

Phil Groom writes:

A number of suppliers and other creditors have been in touch to say that Phil Brewer is not responding to emails or other business correspondence. That’s his prerogative, of course, and hardly surprising given his shameful record of business practice here in the UK. I remain completely astonished that despite knowing the facts about his abusive treatment of his employees and the utter contempt he has shown towards his business partners, the powers-that-be at Durham Cathedral continue to provide him with a foothold and safe haven from which to operate: he should be summarily evicted.

Be that as it may, however, here’s a summary of the contact information that I have for him. All of this is drawn from publicly available sources, largely from a simple Google search for Philip W Brewer. A search for his brother, J Mark Brewer, is similarly rewarding, but for today, let’s focus on finding Phil:

You’ll find more info, as well as a round up of creditors already paid, here:

So no more excuses: send the man a Christmas card today; and why not drop the powers-that-be at Durham Cathedral a line as well to tell them what you think of the ongoing situation there? A Christmas card for the beleaguered staff at the Cathedral bookshop might go down well too, come to think of it…

“Former-SPCK” Creditors: Letters to Church Times, The Bookseller

Matt Wardman writes:

I mentioned in a previous posting that we had written to a number of outlets to publicise the call for Creditors of the former-SPCK bookshop chain, and to raise a number of concerns about the way the brevity of the deadline, and the narrowness of the subset of creditors likely to see a notice placed only in The Bookseller.

Edited versions of our letters have been published in both the Church Times and the Church of England Newspaper, and the full letter in The Bookseller. Christian Marketplace has also carried an article on their website about the Call for Creditors.

We hope, in particular, to start a wider debate in the Book Trade about the nefarious activities of the Messrs Brewer over the last several years, which is long overdue.

In our view, and based on published and unpublished information, a criminal investigation is more than merited.

The Church Times edited out the bits about the deceptive 2008 Bankruptcy attempt in Texas. We are grateful to all publications which carried the letter.

This is the full text of our letter to The Bookseller:

Call for Creditors of Saint Stephen the Great Trust to come forward

Dear Sir

We write as the editors of the SPCK-SSG News Blog (spckssg.wordpress.com). We have been working, with many others, to scrutinise the management of the former-SPCK bookshop chain for 2 years now.

The chain of bookshops was taken over in October/November 2006 by a charity controlled by J Mark Brewer and Philip Brewer, and has been gradually run down since that date.

At least 7 different corporate entities have been used to in managing the chain. These comprise 3 charities (1119839, 1119839-1 and 1109008), 3 private companies (FC028292, FC028290, FC028291), and a Company Limited by Guarantee (06110519); some have similar or identical names, and all were controlled at the outset by various permutations of Brewer family members.

After complaints in 2008, and after a Charity Commission “Section 8” investigation (case ref WTF 1119839/685451), in April this year an “Interim Manager” was appointed to oversee the Saint Stephen the Great charity (1119839), and the Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust ( 1119839-1).

Last week The Bookseller included a notice from the Interim Manager, suggesting that “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.” This notice causes us several concerns.

As far as we are aware the notice has only been published in The Bookseller, while the SPCK chain was a business with worldwide links. SPCK creditors may include English Cathedrals, communion wine suppliers, development charities, craft businesses, religious communities in the UK and overseas and others. How can such a range of creditors can be realistically expected to respond to a notice with a 3 week deadline in a booktrade magazine, posted up to 3 years after the relevant debts were incurred?

In summer 2008, J Mark Brewer attempted to take an organisation, which he called “St Stephen the Great, LLC”, into bankruptcy in the South Texas Bankruptcy Court (case 08-33689-H1). His court submission failed to identify the UK bookshops under his control, but did provide a substantially accurate listing of unpaid debts which had arisen over the previous 12 months. This included several hundred creditors, and more than £1m of debts. This case was subsequently dismissed “with prejudice”, and Mr Brewer – himself a lawyer and former Congressional Candidate – required to pay a penalty and take remedial education in the area of Legal Ethics. Under the quoted cutoff date of July 2007, many debts identified in these court submissions may be ruled out of a possible settlement.

We encourage all potential creditors to get in touch with the Interim Manager using the contact details in the notice, and/or those given on the Charity Commission site; these are stsgct@gothamerskine.co.uk via email, or by phone on 020 7490 1880.

We also hope that specific contact will be made with creditors identified in the Court Documents, who are potential creditors even within the restricted period, and that the deadline for responses will be extended to a more realistic date.

Yours etc

Phil Groom. Editor, UK Christian Bookshops Directory, christianbookshops.org.uk
Matt Wardman, SPCK-SSG News Blog, spckssg.wordpress.com


And our letter to the Church Times:

Call for Creditors of Saint Stephen the Great Trust to come forward

Dear Sir

First of all we must thank the Interim Manager appointed to oversee the Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust, and Saint Stephen the Great, charities for his work in “stopping the rot” in the former-SPCK bookshop chain, and recovering the shops (Durham Cathedral Bookshop excepted) from Philip and J Mark Brewer. At least we are now on the way *out* of the woods.

However, we note that last week The Bookseller trade magazine included a notice from the Interim Manager of the Saint Stephen the Great Trust, suggesting that “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.” This causes us some concerns.

We have been working to scrutinise the mismanagement of the former-SPCK bookshop chain for more than 2 years now, and we are concerned by several aspects of the statement made by the Interim Manager.

The Interim Manager is completely right that this whole affair has been made fearsomely complex by the use by J Mark and Philip Brewer of at least 7 different corporate entities to obfuscate their actions over the last 3 years. These comprise 3 charities (1119839, 1119839-1 and 1109008), 3 private companies (FC028292, FC028290, FC028291), and a Company Limited by Guarantee (06110519), some of which have similar or identical names, and all controlled by various permutations of Brewer family members. There was also an 8th alleged corporate entity, SSG LLC, which appeared in J Mark Brewer’s sworn submissions to the South Texas Bankruptcy Court in summer 2008, but which turned out to exist only in his imagination.

The USDAW Employment Tribunal action, which was settled out of court earlier this year, was impeded by this complexity, and a lack of clarity as to which entity J Mark and Philip Brewer were acting on behalf of at different times, whether their actions at each point were legal or not, and their peculiar reluctance to keep written records. In the end USDAW had to name three separate bodies as respondents because it was not clear which entity employed and managed different members of staff at different points in time. If the Interim Manager had not commendably reached a negotiated settlement, this Tribunal would be going round in ever-decreasing circles even now.

The notice as published seeks creditors of “St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust”, without identifying a specific charity number, and restricts the call to debts incurred before the end of June 2007. Given the confused governance and business relationships, we suggest that the Interim Manager needs to cast a far wider net, at least initially.

We are also concerned that the deadline for responses to the notice has been set for December 16th. The SPCK bookshop chain was a business with worldwide links, and the range of creditors may well include Cathedrals owed rent, communion wine suppliers, development charities, craft businesses, religious communities in Eastern Europe, a consulting engineer used to design an improvement scheme, and others. All of these creditor groups appear in the 2008 Texas court documents referred to above, and – despite the 2008 bankruptcy attempt having been fraudulent – we have found the records of debtors declared to be largely accurate.

We are a little baffled as to how such a range of creditors can be realistically expected to respond to a notice with a 3 week deadline in a Booktrade Magazine, posted up to 3 years after the relevant debts were incurred. Also, would a single notice adequately meet legal requirements where such a wide range of creditors are affected?

So we urge all creditors, and potential creditors, to get in touch with the Interim Manager using the contact details in the notice, and/or those given on the Charity Commission site, which are stsgct@gothamerskine.co.uk via email, or by phone on 020 7490 1880.

We have done what we can to bring wider attention to the published notice, but we hope that specific contact will be made with the hundreds of suppliers identified in the Court Documents, who are potential creditors even within the period before June 2007. Any debts before this date would be in addition to the more than £1m of debts identified in the 2008 Court submissions.

We also hope that the deadline for responses will be extended to a more realistic period, perhaps to the end of January 2010.

Yours etc

Phil Groom. Editor, UK Christian Bookshops Directory, christianbookshops.org.uk
Matt Wardman, SPCK-SSG News Blog, spckssg.wordpress.com
Simon Barrow, Co-Director, Ekklesia, ekklesia.co.uk


Philip Brewer files for Chapter 13 Personal Reorganization

Phil Groom writes:

The excerpt copied below is from a notice posted at AzBiz.com under Daily Territorial > Bankruptcies > bank 8/3/9 and bank 7/30/9 (h/t asingleblog). Keep reading: there’s more

Response to Durham Cathedral expulsion of Shop Lessee from Durham Cathedral Shop

Cross post from the Wardman Wire

Background (source)

In October 2006 the former SPCK Bookshops and their associated websites were entrusted by SPCK to the Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust (SSG), under the control of Messrs Philip and Mark Brewer. Unfortunately shops and staff alike suffered in the transition to new ownership, leading to staff departures, branch closures and uncertainty over opening times for those that remain.

In November 2007 SPCK withdrew SSG’s licence to trade under the SPCK name but throughout 2008 the name was still in use over most of the remaining shops and as of Spring 2009 was still being used in Durham Cathedral Bookshop.

Reports emerging during June 2008 indicated a deepening crisis: SSG filed for bankruptcy in the USA whilst ownership and control of the shops was transferred to a new company — also registered to the Brewers — called ‘ENC Management Company’. The Durham and Chichester shops appear to have been reconstituted as independent trading companies but remain under the Brewers’ personal control.

In July 2008, Mark Brewer attempted to silence reporting on this affair by issuing ‘Cease and Desist’ warnings and threats of legal action against several reporters including Dave Walker, Phil Groom and Clem Jackson of Christian Marketplace magazine. This backfired spectacularly, leading to an explosion of reporting and reposting of Dave Walker’s material across the blogosphere.

On 28th August 2008, however, the bankruptcy filing was dismissed with prejudice by the Texas Bankruptcy Courts and was described by the judge as having been submitted in bad faith: that is, as ‘done for a wrong or improper purpose.’ (The Bookseller, 5 September 2008, Issue No. 5348, p.6). Shortly after this — on 24th September 2008 — the Brewers sold the Exeter shop for £507,000 in violation of a covenant; it is now trading as a jewellery and gift store.

Many of the shop workers who were forced out of their jobs by the Brewers are being supported through Employment Tribunals by Usdaw: these actions are ongoing.

Response to the Specific Situation at Durham Cathedral Bookshop

We welcome the statement today from the Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral that notice has been served on the current operators and occupiers of Durham Cathedral Shop requiring them to vacate the premises on 30th April 2010. Bearing in mind that a petiton of almost 400 signatures was submitted to the Dean and Chapter in Autumn 2008, we would have preferred action to have been taken far sooner.

The Durham Cathedral Bookshop has been the flagship shop in the chain, supplying much of the turnover and most of the profit, which has enabled the whole chain to stay afloat for the last three years.

Therefore this action – subject to any legal challenges or actions issued by J Mark and Phil Brewer through their management company – will, we hope, be the beginning of the end of the saga of serious mismanagement of the SPCK Bookshop chain from October 2006 to the present.

We are concerned that the time window until April 2010 will give the Brewers an opportunity to manipulate the business further for their personal benefit.

The Durham Shop continues to use the SPCK logo and materials, permission for which were withdrawn a long time ago, to trade with incorrect Employers’ Liability Insurance, and to ignore obligations in the shop lease to stock a wide range of books. It has been a stain on the reputation of Durham Cathedral.

The records of the attempted Bankruptcy revealed that large sums of money had “gone missing”. We have documented how sums in excess of $700,000 had been removed from the finances of the Durham Cathedral Bookshop under questionable circumstances to other businesses and charities controlled by the Brewers. Other monies from the Bookshop Chain had been spent in unusual ways for a charity, including the maintenance of an aeroplane owned by Phil Brewer, who was responsible for management of the Durham Cathedral Shop.

The mismanagement of the Durham Cathedral Bookshop, and the whole former-SPCK chain, requires proper investigation and resolution.

Matt Wardman, mattwardman AT gmail DOT com
Phil Groom, groom DOT phil AT gmail DOT com

Notes

For more information about the history of the SPCK saga, check these links:

  1. Durham Cathedral Shop Finances and questionable Saint Stephen the Great payments
  2. Durham Cathedral Shop Adverts and Anagrams: Third Space Books = Crooks Ship A Debt
  3. The SPCK/SSG Newsblog: https://spckssg.wordpress.com/
  4. My original article back in December 2007, including an interview with Mark Brewer and others.
  5. An introduction to the Dave Walker case (legal threats).
  6. A recent visit to Durham Cathedral Bookshop.
  7. Pursuing the Brewers: Contacts and Facts.
  8. Questions for J Mark Brewer: SPCK Bookshops Asset Stripping. Ministry of Truth cross-post.

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