MARCH

OVER 300 North-East jobs were threatened after department store operator Owen Owen went into administration.

OVER 300 North-East jobs were threatened after department store operator Owen Owen went into administration.

Bosses at the company, which ran Robbs of Hexham and the 200-year-old Joplings store in Sunderland, blamed cash flow problems. The firm bought the two North-East department stores in January 2005 for £8m.

Hexham’s Conservative MP Peter Atkinson said the announcement was “very worrying” and Sunderland City Council leader Bob Symonds called it “a big shock”.

Owen Owen’s chief executive David Thompson said it was “business as usual for the stores” but conceded it was a “concerning time”.

Joblings bought Robbs of Hexham in 1981 and both stores were sold to Owen Owen in 2005.

PAINT and adhesives specialist Tor Coatings was sold to a US industry giant in a multi-million pound deal – which brought big payouts for many of its staff.

Birtley-based Tor was bought by Ohio-based RPM International Group, which employs over 9,000 staff worldwide and operates in 15 countries.

The multi-national said it wanted to expand the 21-year-old Wearside business as it invested more in its UK operations. And since 35 of Tor’s 193 staff took a stake in Tor when it was bought from its previous owners in 2002, they made substantial profits from their initial investment.

While RPM and Tor did not reveal the price paid for the company, it was known that the Birtley company cost £13.5m in 2002, when sales stood at £11.5m, and the company had since moved on to generate sales of £23m.

MOTOR dealership chain CarShock went out of business and was placed in the hands of administrators.

The managing director of the Gateshead-based budget car company, Mike Porritt, said his Porritt Motor Holdings company, which trades as CarShock, was not in administration but soon afterwards BDO Stoy Hayward was appointed as joint administrator.

BDO blamed tightening margins for the demise of the business, which has seen 50 staff made redundant, stock from seven sites across the North towed away, and a flippant message reading “Thanks for the memories! R.I.P. 2001-2007” posted on its website. Barry Birkitt, the London estate agent who was Mr Porritt’s opposite number in the Channel 4 show Boss Swap, echoed that he was amazed the business had lasted this long. Mr Burkitt said: “I bet the man on national television that he would go bust within a year, so this is of no surprise to me whatsoever.”

CLOTHING retailer Penny Plain was bought out of administration by a trio of well known North-East businessmen.

The Newcastle company ran up sizeable debts after opening more shops and buying the Wealth of Nations fashion chain at the end of 2005 and went into administration the previous week.

But then it was taken over by Guy Readman, who had just sold Birtley-based Tor Coatings, Gerald Stern – best known for the Alfas sealants company he sold in 2003 – and Jeremy Middleton, a Tyneside entrepreneur and co-founder of FTSE 250 listed water company Homeserve.

The trio aimed to rapidly expand Penny Plain’s web-based business, as well as focusing on its conventional mail order business, and its 10 shops around the country.

Existing managing director Nick Oliver was to remain in day-to-day charge of the company, with commercial director Lisa Lockey, while Mr Readman and Mr Stern would join its board of directors.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer