Tag Archives: St Stephen the Great Trust

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

Phil Groom writes:

Update, Feb 17, 2010

The original news item this report relates to has vanished from the Cathedral website. Now copied into a comment below for reference.

Following last week’s announcement that the Brewer brothers had pulled out of Durham Cathedral ahead of schedule, the Cathedral have now announced a date, 1st March 2010, for the shop to re-open under its own management: The Cathedral Shop – A New Beginning

Due to problems with the roof of the Great Kitchen, where the former SPCK bookshop was situated, the shop will initially open in the entrance area of the original shop with a “focus on the needs of visitors to the Cathedral”. Those who have raised concerns about the need for a good theological bookshop are offered some reassurance, however, as the announcement continues, “As soon as arrangements can be made, a larger shop will open with a wide range of theology books and church supplies.” The new shop is eventually expected to be located in the Undercroft, opposite the restaurant.

Parts of yesterday’s announcement, however, could almost have been written by Philip W Brewer himself and will no doubt leave creditors scratching their heads in bemusement:

From yesterday’s announcement:

The Cathedral cannot deal with any inquiries relating to the former shop which should be directed to St Stephen the Great Trust. …

Organisations will need to establish new accounts since this is a completely new business…

From Philip W Brewer’s instructions to staff when ‘Durham Cathedral Shop Management Company’ was established in March 2008:

Please work with your suppliers as a new entity. Ignore whatever was and whoever was in the past. We are now a new company, with no relationship to the old going forward. So, contact your suppliers, tell them the drill, that you are a new company and that you would like to begin trading. When and if asked about billing, tell them they should process that at vendor-accounts, as you are not aware of how they are paying old invoices, etc. they will need to chase Saint Stephen the Great Trust as they have been doing.

Last year I and several others contacted Peter Gotham, Interim Manager of the St Stephen the Great Trust, urging him to seize control of the Durham shop as he had with others. He responded by insisting that the Durham shop did not come under his remit and refused to take responsibility or comment further on the matter.

If not the Interim Manager, to whom should those with enquiries about the former shop address those enquiries? Perhaps the Cathedral Chapter, whom one hopes has a little more integrity than Philip W Brewer, will post contact details for the division of the St Stephen the Great Trust towards which they are directing enquirers?

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Pursuing the Brewers: Contact Info, Facts and Resources

Phil Groom writes:

An unpaid supplier has asked for contact information for the Brewers with a possible view to pursuing them through the courts: I’ve posted the info I have at the bottom of this post, which is all a matter of public record, but I’d like to run through a few points before we get to that.

Suppliers Discussion Group

At the end of last year we set up a private online Suppliers Discussion Group in the hope of facilitating the possibility of a joint action and/or coordinated response. That group still exists: if you’re a supplier and would like to join the group, please request an invitation. Whether or not it achieves anything is entirely your call, of course, but if you simply sit there on the sidelines moaning that nothing’s happening and no one’s doing anything, what do you expect? Ask not Who’s going to do something? but What can I do?

Today is Good Friday and yes, if you take a stand there’s always the risk that, like Jesus, you’ll end up crucified. That’s part of the deal when you follow Jesus and if you didn’t take that on board when you signed up, that’s either because some evangelist wasn’t telling you the truth or because you didn’t read the small print, even though it’s writ large on every page of the Gospels. Christianity isn’t a shortcut to health-and-wealth: charlatans like the Brewers who use Christianity as a way to pimp their own egos and empires are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Sermon over: if you haven’t got it by now, you probably never will.

Taking a Stand

So what, in practice, has happened when people take a stand against the Brewers? They’ve been paid. Every case we have on record of either an individual or an organisation/company tackling the Brewers head-to-head has resulted in settlement; and when J Mark Brewer attempted to take himself to court in his bogus bankruptcy filing, the only thing he demonstrated was his own incompetence, to the point where the court threw him out as a laughing stock. The only way he was able to get out the hole he’d dug for himself was to hire another attorney to haul him out: the man is, quite frankly, an oaf. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, the facts are friendly. 

Cases Resolved So Far

1. Via this blog:

2. Listed by Brewer himself in the official SSG Statement of Financial Affairs (pdf) filed June 19, 2008, with the US Bankruptcy Court, Texas:

  • TBS, The Book Service: Stratford upon Avon County Court, refs PJS/091710 and  8SV00246, p.7.
  • Nick Johnson, refs 1806366/2007 and 1806489/2007, p.6.
  • Kirsty Smith, ref 7QT61858. Listed as ‘Pending’, p.6, but since resolved.*
  • Melanie Carroll, ref 2600803/2007, p.6.
  • Miss A C Speddings, ref 2801875/2007. Listed as ‘Pending’, p.6, but since resolved.*
  • Mike Pickering, ref 1502210/2007, p.6.

* Information supplied in private correspondence.

Most of these have been out of court settlements. Why? Because, quite simply, the Brewers know they don’t have a leg to stand on. The bankruptcy filing scam and the transfer of company assets to other companies were nothing more than a ruse set up in an attempt to evade SSG’s creditors: any review of the evidence will almost certainly result in them being laughed out of the court.

Certificate of Employers Liability Insurance

Certificate of Employers Liability Insurance

Furthermore, here in the UK, SSG has not gone into administration since the case was thrown out of the USA courts; and despite Philip W Brewer’s protestations that there was “no relationship going forward” between SSG and the Durham Cathedral Shop Management Co., we now have very clear evidence of precisely that continuing relationship in the form of the shop’s Certificate of Employers’ Liability Insurance issued in the name of St Stephen the Great Trust (Policy No. SB06000002/05ACI0125269) for the current period November 2008 – October 2009.

Whether a certificate issued in the name of one company to cover employees of what is ostensibly another company is valid is another matter, of course: I’ve asked Ecclesiastical for clarification. The point here, however, is that the Durham shop and, I’m told, the other shops are displaying this certificate: SSG accepts liability for the Durham shop employees. Any claims that the company has ceased trading and has no liability for other aspects of the shop’s business such as its debts are dubious at best if not complete codswallop. 

Thanks to Melanie Carroll for pointing out that the cost of starting a Small Claim through the Courts is relatively small — as little, in fact, as £25 for a claim up to £300 (Fees Leaflet [pdf]) if submitted via the Money Claim Online service, although this service requires an address in England or Wales where documents may be served. If you back up your claim with appropriate evidence — by visiting a shop and taking a photograph of an item you supplied but haven’t been paid for, for instance — you should be in with a good chance. See HMCS (Her Majesty’s Court Service) Making a Claim for practical guidance on submitting a claim or contact the HMCS Helpdesk.

Resources

Brewer Addresses

The Brewers’ addresses are a matter of public record:

1. From the SSG/SPCK Bankruptcy Filing documents:

J Mark & Philip W Brewer - addresses filed with the Texas Bankruptcy Courts

J Mark & Philip W Brewer - from the Texas Bankruptcy Court Documents

2. From Brewer & Pritchard PC, Contact Us page, which also includes a form for submitting messages directly online:

J Mark Brewer
Brewer & Pritchard, PC 
Three Riverway, 18th Floor
Houston, Texas 77056 
.
Phone: 713-209-2950
Fax: 713-659-5302
Email: brewer@bplaw.com
.

3. From Pima County Court Records, pdf | html (Links broken? Try a Google Search for P21-06-033)

Phil & Beth Brewer
2610 W Bountiful Lane
Tucson, AZ 85742
.

4. Phil Brewer’s Business Card, which he left lying around at asingleblog:

Brewer Enterprises

Brewer Enterprises

.

 

Disclaimer
For the avoidance of doubt: nothing included in this post (or any other post on this site) constitutes legal advice. Any action you may or may not take in response thereto and any consequences thereof are your own responsibility.

Durham Cathedral Bookshop: A Case Study in Dealing with Debt – Philip Brewer Style

Phil Groom writes: Updated 20/11/2008

If you’ve got a longer memory span than a woolly mammoth you’ll remember last month’s post on Dealing with Debt – Philip Brewer Style. It’s all about lateral thinking, and I have before me some very interesting email correspondence between Durham Cathedral Shop Management Company and Philip Brewer dated March 12, 2008, the day after the new company was established on March 11.

I leave you to draw your own conclusions: comments are enabled and welcome. My apologies to those who left comments on the original post, 19/11/2008 — I will contact you individually about reinstatement of those comments, or, if you can remember what you said, please feel free to reinstate them yourselves. Thank you.

Durham’s questions in plain text, Brewer’s responses in blue:

1. What happens to the cheques that will be sent in for ledger accounts made out to St Stephen the Great of which the statements have already been sent. What are they now to have on them as you won’t be able to fit Durham Cathedral Shop Management Co on the cheque. (would Durham Cathedral Shop be enough) I will instruct the bank to take them as per normal. Just deposit them to the new account number I gave you.

2. Do we have to wait until new accounts are opened before we place any more orders for stock or customer orders. Please work with your suppliers as a new entity. Ignore whatever was and whoever was in the past. We are now a new company, with no relationship to the old going forward. So, contact your suppliers, tell them the drill, that you are a new company and that you would like to begin trading. When and if asked about billing, tell them they should process that at vendor-accounts, as you are not aware of how they are paying old invoices, etc. they will need to chase Saint Stephen the Great Trust as they have been doing. We also need to know of who we can say will be our references. What are your recommendations? Also what do we say if the suppliers ask about the invoices that we already owe for ? since we are new, we can’t owe anyone anything yet.

3. Is it okay to contact Booksolve to get the tills and computers changed to Durham Cathedral Shop (do we need to have Management Co on this or will Durham Cathedral Shop do Yes, you may do this. I have already requested they give me a cost for the service to continue. So you are welcome to contact them to make this change. Remember, we are a new company. No need for you to get involved with or diverted with what bills etc are being paid by whom.

Petition Update

As I write the petition to rescue Durham Cathedral Bookshop from the Brewers now stands at 279 signatures. We need another 21 signatures to reach the 300 mark, at which point it will again be presented to the Dean and Chapter.

If you have not signed the petition, please consider doing so.

If you have signed it, thank you. Please consider following it up by:

Ask them: why is the Diocese of Durham allowing a rogue trader to run its Cathedral Bookshop??

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.

I am not Dave Walker

At the end of last week the number of members in the We Support Dave Walker facebook group went over the 400 mark: as I write the membership is at 433 and climbing, higher than the original SPCK facebook group. I, Phil Groom, was added to the group’s admin team last week and I sent the message below to all group members on Friday afternoon, 08/08/2008, simply to introduce myself and outline what I see as the critical issues.

If you’re a facebook member and have not yet joined the group, please do show your solidarity with Dave and the rest of us by signing up, preferably to both groups!

The invitation to contact me, either via facebook or via the Contact Phil page on this blog remains open to all visitors. If you have information about any of the current shops, about workers or suppliers who the St Stephen the Great Trust or Messrs Phil and J Mark Brewer have not yet paid, or would like to take the opportunity this blog provides to tell your own story, please do get in touch or, of course, leave your comments on any page as and where appropriate.


 
To: All members of the We Support Dave Walker facebook group
 
Hi. I figured since David has kindly made me a group admin I ought to introduce myself and outline what I see as the important issues. If you haven’t read ‘My Story’ yet you might like to start there to find out how I became embroiled in this fiasco: 
http://tinyurl.com/philgroom

So who am I? 
I’m a bookseller, currently employed by London School of Theology. I’m also a member of the Executive Committee of the Booksellers Association’s Christian Booksellers Group (BACBG), which happens to be the BA’s biggest specialist booksellers group. 

I also run the UK Christian Bookshops Directory, UKCBD, for which I am blogger, reviews editor and webmaster:
http://www.christianbookshops.org.uk
http://www.christianbookshopsblog.org.uk

And I’m  a regular columnist for Christian Marketplace magazine, for which I write website reviews and other ad-hoc articles.

Finally, I’m the guy who set up the SPCK/SSG blog, https://spckssg.wordpress.com

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

There’s much more I could say. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a ‘C&D’ notice, especially from someone like J Mark Brewer with all the resources of his own law firm available, you’ll appreciate the impact that can have: stomach clenching anxiety as you think about the possible implications… loss of sleep… not eating properly. Believe me, it’s not a good place to be,

But then the adrenalin kicks in: it’s fight or flight. My gut instinct was to flee, but I’ve chosen to fight. Maybe that’s foolish: time will tell. However this pans out, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has stood beside me so far: thank you. Special thanks in particular to Matt Wardman and David Keen.

I know that there are some high-profile people in this group: top-notch journalists, high-flyers in the church, people with legal expertise, high-profile bloggers. I’d like to urge you, please, to do whatever you can to give this ongoing coverage via your media contacts. Remember, it could have been you on the receiving end of these threats. It could have been you that had your article pulled from your paper. If anyone wants to contact me privately, you can do so here within facebook or via the blog.

Finally: for some light relief —

check out the Cartoon Competition that I launched on Wednesday this week:
https://spckssg.wordpress.com/cartoon-competition

There’s been one hilarious entry already:
http://www.bengallagher.com/blog/2008/08/cistern-disease/

Competition closes when we get an entry from Dave Walker.

Thanks for reading,

Phil