The final curtain has fallen in Durham on Phil and Mark Brewers bruising foray into UK bookselling. The good news that Durham Cathedral is sticking to its promise to re-open the shop under Cathedral management. Earlier this week the shop was suddenly closed (probably by email - that seems to be the Brewers preferred way of laying people off), following some rapid reshuffling of stock the week before as snow and frost damage started affecting the Great Kitchen, main site of the bookshop.
Church Times (subscriber only till Friday 5th Feb)
SPCK/SSG News Notes and Info (comments too)
According to the Northern Echo, the Cathedral has said that it will re-employ the 6 current staff, though it has longer term plans to do a feasibility study on the best site for a bookshop. I just hope that what was once a flagship theological bookshop doesn't get lost: it must be tempting for Cathedrals to follow the dollar and stock teatowels, fudge and union jack merchandise to pay for the biblically proportioned heating and maintenance bills. Durham used to be an excellent theological bookshop, and with a university and two training colleges on the doorstep, there must still be a market there if it can recover its reputation. The comments of the chapter clerk in the Echo report suggest that the bookshop and gift shop might be separate entities.
The Echo also notes: Neither the Brewers nor the Saint Stephen the Great Trust could be contacted for comment. Now there's a surprise.
Someone who I think is one of the bookshop staff has commented on the Durham Cathedral Facebook page: "We are devasted but I'm sure that the new shop will be a fantastic one. Thanks to our customers and friends for their support."
There is still some unfinished business:
- Unpaid staff, and issues over pension payments
- Brewer creditors, and whether they'll see their money again. However, unless creditors are prepared to pursue the Brewers through the courts (oh for a workable extradition treaty with the USA!), it's unlikely that the bills will be paid.
- The nature of the settlement with former staff who settled out of court with the Charity Commissioners in 2009.
Last I heard Phil Brewer owned a private plane (sorry, originally called this a 'jet', which isn't accurate - see comments. Got a bit carried away...) and Mark Brewer ran a law firm with 7 attorneys plus support staff, and regularly dealt with million dollar cases. They are named as the trustees of the Society of St. Stephen the Great (which originally took on the bookshops from SPCK), and the Directors of ENC Management (which took over from SSG, leaving all SSG bills unpaid and zeroing the Brewer debts at a stroke). I still can't work out how they get to walk away from all this. I also can't work out how Mark Brewer gets full marks for ethics.
As the title suggest, this is probably my last post on the SPCK/SSG campaign. Well done to Phil Groom, Dave Walker and Matt Wardman for being the backbone of it, lets hope and pray the Christian book trade can learn some lessons - they've certainly come at a price.