SPCK shops’ bankruptcy petition meets a hitch

24 July 2008

by Bill Bowder

THE OWNERS of the former SPCK bookshops chain have been halted by inconsistencies in their petition from declaring themselves bankrupt in a United States court. They are said to owe thousands of dollars to hundreds of creditors.

The Bankruptcy Court in Houston, Texas, has issued a notice that says it intends to dismiss the motion for bankruptcy unless it hears from the owners by Monday 4 August.

Randy W. Williams, the trustee of the bankruptcy courts, had filed the motion to dismiss the bankruptcy motion because, he said, the company that petitioned for bankruptcy, “St Stephens the Great LLC”, did not exist. What did exist was “St Stephens the Great”, which bore the same name and same tax code as the charity in the UK that took over SPCK shops’ staff and assets. It is with that charity that many creditors were in dispute.

But although St Stephen the Great, the “alleged” debtor, had stated that it had done millions of dollars of business over the past few years, and hundreds of thousands of dollars of business over the past few months, and had numerous bookshops in England and Wales, “no assets are listed”. Only one shop was referred to, and it was not clear whether that was a bookshop. Mr Williams warned that the use of an alias could make the filing for bankruptcy null and void. The debtor “or its sister charity” had also made no disclosure related to its website.

Mr Williams said that it was not in the best interest of the “extensive” creditors that the proceedings should be so far from the UK, where almost all the “tangible business” took place. “Finally, Mr Brewer, Debtor’s counsel, has provided information to the Trustees suggesting that the schedules as they relate to the assets are false.” That, Mr Williams said, would be referred to “the proper authorities”.

Mr Williams offers to provide copies of his motion to anyone who contacts him at his office: Three Allen Center, 333 Clay Street, Suite 3300, Houston, TX 77002, USA.

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