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SPCK announces end of bookshop wrangle

21 September 2012

by a staff reporter

THE long-running legal dispute between SPCK and the Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust (SSGCT), which took over its bookshops ( News, 14 September 2007), appears to have reached a conclusion.

In a statement issued last Friday - six years after it handed over its bookshops, most in prominent locations in cathedral cities - to the trust, the chief executive of SPCK, Simon Kingston, said that the "painful" affair was finally over.

"We are very glad to have brought this difficult matter to a conclusion at last. It has been painful for everybody, and particularly for the staff of our former shops. We therefore welcome the news that SSGCT is unlikely to continue as a charity."

As part of the agreement, SPCK will receive the return of some shop freeholds or their realised value; but it expects to have to pay significant legal costs in the coming months.

Mr Kingston also said that he was committed to paying substantial sums into the pension funds that had been operating for shop staff.

The trouble for SPCK began in 2006 when it handed over its 23 loss-making bookshops to two American brothers, Mark and Philip Brewer, who ran an Eastern Orthodox charity. Within a year, staff were complaining about an "oppressive regime" under the new management. Stock was censored, including some SPCK titles and the Qur'an.

In 2009, the Charity Commission seized control of the trust's UK assets, and appointed an interim manager to manage its affairs. This led to the closure of many of the remaining shops and the sale of the company's assets. Creditors were asked to submit claims for money.

The Bishop of Oxford, who chairs SPCK, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, this week welcomed the end of the legal wrangle. "This is good news for SPCK and good news for the Church. Now that this is resolved, SPCK can look forward to the future with confidence."



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