Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Creditors clash with J&K Campbell over debt deal

A developer who lent Iris Robinson £25,000 which she gave to her lover to start a business was confronted by angry creditors as he tried to persuade them to accept a deal paying a percentage of his debts.

The tense meeting at Belfast's Wellington Park Hotel went on for nearly three hours as around 30 creditors questioned Ken Campbell and insolvency practitioner Walter Lismore - the nominee for the proposed voluntary arrangement - over the proposal.

But creditors voted against it, resulting in the meeting being adjourned until next week when another vote will be taken.

Eight creditors have already started legal action over debts ranging from £5,000 owed to Balloo Hire Centres to £61,000 owed to PACC Engineering.

The document containing the proposed arrangement, which has been seen by the Belfast Telegraph, reveals that Ulster Bank is owed £2.1m by his business J&K Campbell, while 200 unsecured creditors are owed £1.69m.

Provisionally, the agreement could see them getting back 37% of what they are owed. But a spokesman for insolvency practitioners Lismore Group said: "The eventual outcome for creditors will depend on the amounts realised from the assets and the liabilities admitted by the supervisor after he completes his investigations."

A summary of accounts in the document shows net profit at J-amp;K Campbell fell from £587,557 in 2008 to £77,725 last year, while 35 employees at the business are already on notice of losing their jobs. Mr Campbell's wife Ena is employed in the business, which started as a partnership with Mr Campbell's father Jim.

Giving his proposal in the document, Mr Campbell stated: "Trading conditions have recently become increasingly difficult and profit margins have been steadily decreasing. Creditors have been reducing credit terms available to the business and this has impacted on the business cashflow. A number of creditors have recently issued statutory demands against me which I am not in a position to discharge."

Out of three Ulster Bank business accounts, one has an overdrawn balance of £1.4m, another €9,500 and another is £693,142 overdrawn.

Many who spoke to the Belfast Telegraph before and after the meeting claimed their debts were understated in the proposal - though Mr Campbell is expected to challenge some of the claims.

If creditors do accept the proposal next week, the business will be wound down gradually. The alternative is for Mr Campbell to be adjudicated bankrupt, in which case trading would cease right away and creditors are unlikely to get paid at all.

The business does building work for clients including Henderson Group, Herbel Properties and South Eastern Health -amp; Social Care Trust. Many of the businesses are owed money for their work on petrol stations owned by Henderson.

A report by Mr Lismore attached to the document said the arrangement will see a dividend being paid to the creditors which would not be available if Mr Campbell is made bankrupt.

Three properties in Saintield - including the £290,000 house on Belfast Road where Mr Campbell lives with his wife Ena - are detailed but the statement from Lismore said that if these are sold, there is likely to be a shortfall to the Ulster Bank.

His work in progress was estimated at £450,000 while Mr Campbell also expects to recoup £200,000 from his own debtors.

In 2009 Mr Campbell lent £25,000 to then-Strangford DUP MP and friend Iris Robinson, the wife of First Minister Peter Robinson. She gave that sum, and £25,000 from now deceased developer Fred Fraser, to Kirk McCambley who used the money to set up The Lock Keepers Inn.

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