Belfast Telegraph

Top Northern Ireland PR-firm Stakeholder wound-up over £200k tax bill - rival MCE bids to save jobs

By Alan Erwin

One of Northern Ireland's best-known public relations companies has been wound-up at the High Court in Belfast.

The move to liquidate Stakeholder relates to a tax bill in excess of £200,000.

But rival firm MCE Public Relations Ltd is close to completing a deal to buy the business and protect its five staff members' jobs.

A winding-up petition brought by HM Revenue and Customs' was granted after a proposed voluntary arrangement to pay some of the debt was rejected.

It brings an end to a communications and event management consultancy which has operated in the UK and Ireland for two decades.

Headed by Tom Kelly, the firm gained a reputation for providing quality public relations and communication strategies to clients.

It was plunged into difficulties amid attempts to restructure following the recession and Mr Kelly's deteriorating health.

In a statement he confirmed a decision was taken recently to proceed with the sale of the business to MCE.

"Unfortunately we were hampered by having to deal with some historical but critical issues, which only came to light earlier this year," Mr Kelly said.

"In an attempt to resolve these matters we explored several options including a very credible CVA (Creditors Voluntary Arrangement)  which was accepted by all parties except one."

When that proposal was rejected a liquidator was appointed.

Mr Kelly was not in court as his legal representative, John Gordon of Napiers and Sons, confirmed the winding up order.

In his statement he stressed: "This is obviously not the pathway that we desired, but it is still MCE's intention to proceed with the purchase, with all staff transferring.

"We hope that this can happen very quickly and certainly within the next week."

He added: "Stakeholder staff will continue to work on servicing clients with PR, Design and PA needs as they arise.

"Hopefully we will be making a more positive announcement imminently."

Outside court Mr Gordon said: "Nothwithstanding the fact that the company has gone into liquidation, discussions are close to completion with MCE which will secure employment for the five staff at Stakeholder."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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