Monday, April 13, 2009

SPCK Bookshops - smoke and mirrors

During my Lent break, the issues around the former SPCK bookshops didn't, sadly, go away. Texan businessman Mark Brewer is still in charge, suppliers remain unpaid, and the bookshop chain continues to struggle.

However, Phil Groom has unearthed something very, very interesting. In March 2008, the St. Stephen the Great Charitable Trust, overnight, handed over the SPCK bookshops to a cluster of new businesses, all set up under the Brewer name. Anyone owed money by SSG was immediately left high and dry, as the new businesses (which are basically the same as SSG but with a new name), accepted no liability for SSG's unpaid bills. Over 100 individuals and companies were left unpaid, and Brewer then tried to get himself declared bankrupt in the USA to avoid paying any of them.

But...... There is now documentary evidence to show that SSG and the new companies are, effectively the same. Phil has a copy of the Certificate of Employers Liability, where SSG are the named company for November 2008-October 2009, for staff working in the shops under the ownership of ENC/Durham Cathedral Shop Management/Chichester Cathedral Shop Management.

This either means
a) that there is an ongoing relationship between SSG and ENC (in which case, bingo!)
or b) that the insurance is invalid (in which case, flee the building!)

It is a continiuing scandal that a flagship Christian bookshop chain has become a byword for incompetence and injustice. However it is also obvious, as Phil points out, that whenever the new owners have had their bluff called, they've paid up. Part of Mark Brewers Lent penance was discovering that some of his cash had gone south with Allen Stanford. It's not that he doesn't have the money.

(By the way, if you've ever been to Durham Cathedral bookshop, have a look at this - no, it's not a clearance sale, it's big empty gaps on the shelves. )

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