Belfast Telegraph

Death threats issued against family after collapse of Wrightbus says Jeff Wright

Jeff Wright, lead pastor of Green Pastures Church and former Wrightbus director.
Jeff Wright, lead pastor of Green Pastures Church and former Wrightbus director.

Former director of Wrightbus Jeff Wright has said that death threats have been issued against his family following the collapse of their business.

Mr Wright, the son of Wrightbus founder Sir William Wright, called on all elected representatives and those with influence in the community to "help end this intimidation and fear".

In a statement issued on Friday evening Mr Wright said that the closure of Wrightbus "has been devastating to our loyal and highly skilled workforce".

The statement is Mr Wright's first public comment since the collapse of his family's company.

"The loss of the company my father and I have grown and nurtured for over seventy years has been shattering for our family," he said.

"Generations of families have worked alongside our own family over all these years and so this is deeply and personally felt by everyone.

"We are here to provide our administrators, Deloittes, with all information, order books, financial records and whatever is needed to establish a future plan for the bus manufacturing operation. Our commitment to supporting all efforts is unwaivering."

Mr Wright called on threats against his family to stop.

"There have been sinister developments involving threats to the life of Wright family members and I am asking all elected representatives and those with influence in the community to help end this intimidation and fear," he said.

In response to Mr Wright's statement TUV leader Jim Allister said that there can be "no place for threats".

"All need to focus on trying to salvage much needed jobs to ease the pain that is being felt all round," the North Antrim MLA said.

UUP leader Robin Swann also condemned the threats.

"Intimidation and fear won't help those who are trying to restore jobs and encourage others to look at this as a company and area to invest in," he said.

Wrightbus entered administration on Tuesday, making 1200 staff redundant in an area that has been hit with a number of high profile business closures in recent years.

Deloitte has been appointed as administrators of the company, which has only retained around 50 staff.

Wrights Group ran out of money after a downturn in many of its key markets but has also faced criticism for giving away so much to charity.

A total of 1,200 jobs were axed when the manufacturer went into administration (Liam McBurney/PA)
A total of 1,200 jobs were axed when the manufacturer went into administration (Liam McBurney/PA)

Green Pastures Church, led by Jeff Wright, received an estimated £15m in donations through Cornerstone Group, Wrights Group's parent company, over the last six years.

Some Wrightbus staff have said they will picket the church on Sunday over the payments and what they regard as imprudent use of company funds.

On Friday, the Belfast Telegraph revealed that Mr Wright asked a Chinese firm for annual rent of around £1m in a potential sale of the troubled firm, however the deal was not completed.

It's believed that the level of rent became a stumbling block in the deal for the interested party, understood to be Weichai.

It would have saved the jobs of 1,200 Wrightbus workers' and the public purse around £13m in redundancy payments.

A separate Wright family company owns the property used by the now collapsed firm, with the business paying rent to the Wrights.

On Thursday Prime Minister Boris Johnson referred to land issues in comments about the company.

As London Mayor, Mr Johnson had placed a large order for New Routemasters made by Wrightbus, later known as the 'Boris Bus'.

"As I think you may know, the negotiations got very close and there was a particular problem that came up to do with the ownership of the land. We want to sort it out, we are going to do what we can to help," he said.

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