THE four former SPCK shops that were due to be auctioned by their new owners, the troubled bookshop chain, the St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust (SSG) (News, 25 April), have been withdrawn from sale.
The freehold shops, in Bradford, Canterbury, Exeter, and York, were to have been auctioned in London on 13 May. Estimates ranged from £500,000 for the Exeter shop to £150,000 for the Bradford shop.
There are thought to be two reasons for the halt. One is that the transfer of ownership to SSG has not been completed. The other is that the Brewer brothers, who run SSG, have been reminded of a seven-year restrictive covenant that accompanied the transfer of all the freeholds from SPCK in October 2006. This states that the shops can be used only as Christian multi-denominational bookshops. The covenant would apply to any prospective purchaser.
Simon Kingston, general secretary of SPCK, said on Tuesday: “I was surprised to see that these freeholds were being offered for sale, since, at the time I saw the advertisement, the Land Registry still didn’t show that SSG had yet registered the transfer of the freeholds to St Stephen the Great. That is no doubt in process.”
It is not known whether the auction will go ahead at a future date. Mr Kingston said: “I would hope that such a sale would not represent any immediate loss to Christian bookselling.”