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Firms owed £1.1m by Kent's JC Rook and Sons 'highly unlikely' to see a penny

A Kent butchery chain went under owing more than £1 million to other businesses - but documents reveal the money is "highly unlikely" to ever be paid back.

More than 150 firms have been left out of pocket following the decision last month to put JC Rook and Sons into administration.

Rooks in Deal is one of 11 branches to have closed
Rooks in Deal is one of 11 branches to have closed


Now, newly published papers show the traders - including 70 in Kent - will likely not receive a penny of what they are owed.

Despite this, administrator Interpath Advisory is set to pocket more than £173,000 – calculated at an average rate of £417 per hour – for its work since being appointed by Rooks in March.

Accounts also show that employees from the 57-year-old retailer – which had 11 shops across the county – are owed more than £200,000 in wage arrears, holiday pay and pension benefits.

But Interpath says any payments to former staff will be dependent on how much it can raise from the company's assets, and the costs involved.

Should the money be found, they will be paid before any of the business creditors, including 37 companies in Kent owed more than £1,000.

Among them is Canterbury-based Robins Paper Bags, which is set to miss out on £13,260 - although it claims the true figure is more than £30,000.

Managing director Michael Redhead says the saga has left the firm - which carried out a range of packaging work for Rooks - with a “pretty massive hole” to fill.

Inside Rooks in Deal, where food was still on display on the day of its closure
Inside Rooks in Deal, where food was still on display on the day of its closure

“It came as a shock,” the 40-year-old told KentOnline.

“We knew something was up because it was tough getting payments from them since Christmas, but we’d only just put the accounts on hold before we found out.

“We’re quite a small company and have only the one branch in Hersden, so it’s a pretty massive hole in the balance sheet.

“It also leaves you more cautious offering credit in the future to other companies, even ones you’ve dealt with for a long period of time.

“I’ve been with the business for 20 years and we’ve had bad debts in the past, but nothing of this scale.

“We’ll bounce back and carry on, but it’s not something you want.”

Another Canterbury-based company, Weddel Swift, is listed as Rooks’ largest Kent creditor, with it being owed just under £50,000.

Paddock Wood’s PMJ Foods has been left out of pocket to the tune of £36,000, while Faversham pub giant Shepherd Neame faces losing £23,000 from the chain’s collapse.

Rooks in Herne Bay
Rooks in Herne Bay

Accounts released this week by the administrator state the high street firm started suffering a downturn in trade following the outbreak of Covid two years ago.

It stresses “strict government measures” prevented Rooks from operating at pre-pandemic levels, prompting directors to grow the food service wing of the business from its Ramsgate factory.

They further expanded it at a site in Shoreham in May 2021. However, this arm of the business is said to have run at a “very high cost base” and also suffered from the ill effects of the virus.

“Although the company saw improved trading in late 2021, the emergence of the Omicron variant impacted what is usually a peak trading period for both businesses over Christmas,” Interpath's Neil Gostelow explained.

“It usually built cash reserves over this period to allow it to continue trading through the quieter months between January and March.

“As a result, although the directors implemented a cost-saving plan in early 2022 to reduce the impact over Christmas, they sought legal and professional advice in March.

“Following this, the directors decided to close the 11 retail stores and cease operating at the two food sites.”

The announcement of Rooks’ demise came as a massive blow to the high street, where the firm had outlets in Broadstairs, Deal, Dover, Folkestone, Gillingham, Herne Bay, Hythe, Maidstone, Southfleet, Ramsgate and Sittingbourne.

Of its 137-strong workforce, 135 were made redundant when Interpath was called in by directors.

All of JC Rook and Sons' 137-strong workforce has now been made redundant
All of JC Rook and Sons' 137-strong workforce has now been made redundant

The remaining two were retained for a short period to support the administrator, before they too were made jobless.

Ray Webb – who ran the butchery’s Gillingham branch between 2006 and 2016, before moving into a part-time role – says his "livelihood was taken away".

“I got a phone call from a colleague on the night of Sunday, March 13, saying ‘it’s going into administration tomorrow, so don’t go into work’,” the 63-year-old said.

“I’m very angry because I’d been working in that butcher’s shop since the late ‘70s, before Rooks took it over 16 years ago.

“To be in the shop for 43 years and to lose your job that way – my livelihood was taken away.

“Having been there so long, most of our customers were friends.”

Claims from former members of staff are revealed to total £201,600.

Interpath says “it is possible a distribution will be made to them, but this will be dependent on asset realisations and associated costs”.

Ray Webb (pictured) used to work at JC Rook and Sons' Gillingham branch
Ray Webb (pictured) used to work at JC Rook and Sons' Gillingham branch

Rooks’ debts of about £166,000 to Lloyds Bank, meanwhile, have already been paid off.

However, the £560,000 it owes to HMRC and the financial services compensation scheme, along with the more than £1 million it failed to give back to other companies, are “highly unlikely” to be reimbursed based on current estimates.

“As the company was running with operating losses and its directors had made the decision to cease operations, continuing to trade would have likely worsened the position of creditors,” Mr Gostelow added.

“Additionally, there was no guarantee of supply after the joint administrators were appointed due to current relationships with creditors."

Papers show that Rooks had stock with a book value of £609,478 when it went under, but only £12,250 was raised from what could still be sold.

“This reflects the perishable nature of the stock and the short period of time to minimise holding costs," the documents state.

Interpath says it incurred “time costs” of £173,159.75 between the date of its appointment and April 8, which has not yet been paid.

The sum - which is expected to increase until Rooks exits administration - will be paid out before any sums are given to "preferential creditors", such as former employees.

The cost of Interpath's managing director’s work is listed at £725 per hour.


The financial firm is also claiming pre-administration fees of almost £31,000, which it says covers work carried out with “the objective of achieving a better result for creditors than would be likely if Rooks was wound up”.

“As it was not possible to achieve a sale of the business as a going concern, rescuing the company is not achievable,” Mr Gostelow continued.

“Therefore, our primary objective is to achieve a better result for the company’s creditors as a whole than would be likely if it was wound up.

“At this stage, we anticipate the most likely exit route from administration will be dissolution.”

The administrators’ proposals will be deemed approved within eight business days unless contested by creditors owed at least a combined 10% of Rooks' debt.

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