Tag Archives: Simon Kingston

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.”

 

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spckonline.com will NOT damage your computer!

The now reclaimed spckonline.com

The now reclaimed spckonline.com

Congratulations to SPCK’s Simon Kingston on at last wresting control of spckonline.com from the Brewer brothers: screenshot right.

Under the Brewer’s dire management the site had been allowed to become a haven for… well, whatever it was that caused Google to post warnings and refuse to provide direct links to the site: the message was simple — don’t go there: Google Warns Visitors: Beware spckonline.com

Simon has generously provided a link to thirdspacebooks.com, the Brewers’ current online enterprise. I’m not going to provide a link here though: to say the least, Third Space Books looks as disreputable as everything else we’ve become used to seeing from Phil and Mark Brewer. Visit Ben Gallagher’s Who Owns What? for more info…

My thanks to asingleblog and Stephen for their recent comments (1, 2) drawing my attention to this small but significant step in the right direction by SPCK; and again, congratulations to Simon: keep up the good work!

Straight Talking from SPCK

I invited SPCK to respond to my post, Hard Questions for SPCK. The following statement has been issued jointly by Simon Kingston, General Secretary and Chief Executive Officer, and the Rt Revd Michael Perham, Bishop of Gloucester, Chairman of the SPCK Governing Body. Simon and the Bishop served as trustees with SSG when the shops were transferred from SPCK to SSG but resigned from SSG in October 2007.

Thanks to both Simon and the Bishop for taking the time to issue this response. Please note that due to their ongoing commitments, as reflected in this statement, neither Simon nor the Bishop are free to engage in any discussions that may arise from it. 

– Phil


 

SPCK LogoBefore the transfer of the bookshops in October 2006, the Bookshops had been losing considerable sums of money for a number of years, and SPCK could no longer afford such continuing losses. To give an idea of the level, the loss made by the bookshops in the year ending April 2006 was over £800,000. SPCK had been selling its historical capital year on year to keep them going, and could no longer afford to do so.

A possible deal with Wesley Owen had attracted much adverse comment and publicity, largely on the grounds of breadth of stockholding, and had fallen through.

We had sent out two requests for help for the shops, with a disappointing result. Though we might have found other partners to take over one or two of the shops, it was clear that there would have to be many closures. This we hoped to avoid.

At the time of transfer, public concern centred on the question of theological breadth of stock. SPCK’s agreement with Saint Stephen the Great (SSG) sought to address this by spelling it out. SSG said that they were happy to agree formally to maintain a multi-denominational stockholding and also the stocking of books taking both sides of controversial issues.

They said that they intended not only to keep open all twenty-three shops, but to invest in improving them, and even to expand the chain.

Prior to the transfer, the Society had certainly been through a due diligence procedure. SPCK and our agents had made investigations about Saint Stephen the Great and its [then] principals, on both sides of the Atlantic. There were no staff problems or employment issues that we picked up either ourselves, or through our contacts and agents.

It is true that one of our trustees was strongly opposed. It is quite untrue, though, that the chairman reprimanded him for what he said at the annual meeting or that he was asked to resign. He walked out during the subsequent Governing Body discussion. The vote was unanimous.

None of the trustees thought it an ideal solution, but it did seem to be better than the alternative. SSG had agreed to maintain a breadth, to keep all the shops open, and to keep staff on the same terms, under TUPE regulations, with the same pension rights. They were looking to invest in new shelving and outfitting of shops.

At first, SSG employed a UK-based British management team overseeing the shops in addition to the shop-based staff. These, some of whom were former SPCK employees, seemed an added level of continuity. Sadly, they have now all left and have apparently not been replaced (other than by the SSG Trustees themselves or US-based employees).

With hindsight, we would have done something else. Yet the large-scale closures that would have been necessary would undoubtedly have attracted much negative publicity and caused upset to those working in the shops concerned. As we have made clear, it was simply not possible to keep the shops going any longer.

We have been greatly upset by what has happened. We have been actively trying to do something about it, and are engaged in legal activity on a number of fronts about which it is not currently possible to say much. This and working with other interested parties and individuals has taken up a great deal of Simon Kingston’s time over the last year and continues to do so.

The Trustee body continue to have the shops as an item at every meeting, and spend a deal of time discussing what is best to do. A great deal has gone on (and continues today) which is not public knowledge. It is simply not true that we have ignored the situation. And with legal issues outstanding, we simply cannot wade in with public pronouncements. Indeed, some public comments (including, frankly, one or two contributions to the various blogs) serve to make matters worse rather than better.

SPCK and its trustees are truly saddened by the situation. We made a decision in good faith, and it has not turned out well. We are really sorry at the turn of events. But breast-beating makes nothing better. We are doing what we can on a continuing basis, and this may take another year or more before it has run its course.

The next few weeks will see two of the former SPCK shops in formal re-launches under new ownership. Let us all hope that other sites also find happier times once more.

Simon Kingston, SPCK General Secretary and Chief Executive Officer
The Rt Revd Michael Perham, Bishop of Gloucester, Chairman of the SPCK Governing Body
12 August 2008