Spiritualist National Union Psychic News Sale to JV Trust?

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Spiritualist National Union Psychic News Sale to JV Trust?

Post by Admin on Mon Jul 25, 2011 3:43 am

I noted a post in another area which gave us all a link to the member’s pre AGM papers for this year’s SNU conference. Specific attention was drawn to this section

“2.9.2 The liquidator published an advertisement inviting offers from all
interested parties for an indefinite licence to publish the paper and the
exclusive right to hold and use the archives or outright purchase of the
rights and all assets and access to archives or a percentage interest of
up to 100% in a charitable company owning the rights to be licensed. At
the first meeting of the Liquidation Committee, held on 19th May, the
liquidator confirmed that the ownership of the disputed assets had been
settled and the company’s assets were in process of being sold to the
JV Trust, who had made the highest offer: following the sale of the
assets the liquidators would be agreeing the claims of creditors and any
dividend to be paid.”

It would appear that at long last we have concrete information. The JV Trust is buying the assets so we could expect Psychic News to come back as a truly independent publication. We are aware that the liquidator found that the SNU did not own any of Psychic Press’s assets, particularly the masthead and archives (the pre AGM papers try to make that fact somewhat more obscure). So clearly the JV Trust must have placed the highest bid to the liquidator and are now in a position to move on.

Well that is what one may have thought, normally after such an offer is made things move on quickly. This minimises the liquidator’s costs and gets any surplus into the hands of the creditors as soon as can be.

However there must be some problem going on. Bids were called some time ago and no official announcement has been made, looking at 2.9.1 of the pre AGM papers we find
“The liquidator had suggested that in order to resolve the impasse a tripartite body be set up to look after the assets and had subsequently circulated a memorandum with proposals for the restructuring of the Psychic News business: the liquidator subsequently advised the Union that the Spiritual Truth Foundation and the JV Trust had declined to participate in any form of joint venture with the SNU concerning ownership of the disputed assets.”
Clearly the SNU did not like the umpire’s decision and part of any delay must be due to this issue. However, why would anybody expect the JV Trust who offered to stop the company from being liquidated by buying it in August last year and the Spiritual Truth Foundation who had told the SNU they did not own the Masthead and Archives, actually want work with an organisation that had been behaving so badly especially to them.
Even if we allow for this delay we must assume the bid process closed in early April. Something has to be wrong for no announcement to have been made and teh deal to be concluded.

We are well aware the NEC was absolutely determined to ensure they had the Archives and the Masthead. Their first attempt to liquidate only failed when the news leaked at the last moment in early June 2010 and protests started. They continued the liquidation, knowing that the company was not trading solvently and initially grabbing funds they should not have done, only repaying some of that (but not subscriptions they collected for PN after they had decided to liquidate and cease publication) when they realised it was an illegal act..

As Directors, (the NEC became defacto Directors because no further directors meetings of PP 1995 were held after May and all subsequent decisions were made by the NEC on behalf of the SNU who owned PP1995) , once the company was trading insolvently they had a duty, not to look after the interests of the owners, but that of all the creditors. They then received an offer which would have saved the company and ensured the continuation of the business repaying all creditors and protecting the staff. This failed because they claimed the masthead and archives belonged to the SNU despite the information given by the Spiritual Truth Foundation. So back in last August they failed in their duty as Directors, an act that could leave them personally exposed to damage claims.
They then called in Berleys to liquidate to a continued storm of protest. At the last minute they cancelled and dismissed Berley’s. Either Berley’s told them the cheap fixed price deal was not on, or that the ownership of the assets would have to be investigated; indeed maybe it was both things. We know that the SNU, who one would assume may have wondered whether they really owned the assets then acted like they knew they did not. They tried to register a Trade Mark for Psychic News, this act was thwarted by a prior registration of the name by another of our posters on here.

Finally the SNU brought Psychic Press 1995 back to a new liquidator, who they have chosen and appointed. Presumably with this liquidator they are committed to cover any shortfall in the costs incurred should the sale proceeds not cover costs. It is equally clear that they are not giving up in their attempts to try and get something out of the liquidation. The suggested tripartite agreement suggests this. Additionally a liquidator appointed by them who may need paying by them might just possibly be felt have some tendency of bias in their favour.

With all the time which has elapsed, 4 months, those costs must be rocketing up. Clearly this level of delay means that something is exercising minds, time and lawyers. This must be a very expensive exercise now and I doubt that there will be anything left as a surplus to distribute to Creditors. The AGM quoted 37,000 pounds on the liquidation but I can only think that is before the costs of this liquidator, these would have not yet been brought to account. I would also doubt that covers all the costs the NEC have actually incurred on the Psychic Press 1995 matter in other areas, like legal advice.
It does seem to me that there is some form of game in play. I would imagine that, after all the nastiness of the ban on Eric Hatton’s book the lawyers are seeking guarantees and warranties from the SNU to ensure that this type of thing is not going to happen again to a relaunched Psychic News. There must be many things which require dealing with but I am sure that were the NEC and SNU really to be in full support of the purchase by the JV Trust it would have happened by now.

As this is not the case then just what is going on. Is the NEC trying to ensure that this deal does not go ahead? I suspect that is very likely despite the cost that would involve them in paying out the liquidator. After all they could make an offer at the level of that cost then say that when the JV Trust pulled out they felt impelled to act to protect these vital artifacts of Spiritualism. Of course that was exactly where they intended to be last May. Sadly there actions since then have come at a great cost. I would suspect an overall cost of something like 100,000 pounds to them and the total loss of all the creditors money. Then we must not forget the emotional and financial cost to their staff who never received a full payout whilst being treated appallingly.
Of course one may hope that this is a scenario that will not play out and that the NEC will ensure the JV Trust deal is concluded. This will save the SNU considerable further cost and ensure that its reputation is not further tarnished by the events surrounding Psychic News.
Hmm there is however another comment further on in the pre AGM papers by Vice President Judith Seaman
“4.1.2 The SNU Action Plan was discussed and the following comments were
noted:-
i) Promotion/Improving communication with the Union
• Increase Church circulation/Improve communication : There was a need for a paper circulation for those who do not have access to the web.”

Does anyone wonder at the fact that we may have suspicions? By all accounts this was the role intended for Psychic News last year when the first liquidation was proposed in April.

Oh well let’s get this possible outrage aired, hopefully the NEC will quickly dispel are fears acting hastily to ensure the good news of the JV Trust acquiring the assets of Psychic News becomes real news not a foot note in these pre AGM papers. We all want an independent Psychic News back, ensuring and aiding this may help the NEC regain a very little respect especially with the independent Spiritualists.

For those looking for other AGM info it can be found here
Clearly the SNU will post its own report to augment the brief report here http://www.snu.org.uk/news/agmnews.htm

We are also lucky to have Sue Farrow’s excellent report here http://spiritofpn.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/snu-agm-2011/ .

The link to the pre AGM papers is http://www.snu.org.uk/news/agminterim2011.pdf
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