Tuesday 27 September 2016

Clerys staff staging sit-in as store ordered to 'immediately cease trading'

Sale of iconic Dublin store for undisclosed sum announced earlier today

Denise Calnan and Mark O'Regan

Published 12/06/2015 | 13:40

Clerys
Clerys

Staff in Clerys on O'Connell Street were told this afternoon their jobs were gone after the company was sold to a new owner.

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The business employs 130 people, while another 330 work for 50 'concession holders', who also operate in the store.

Some 20 staff remained in the building until shortly before 9pm.

Earlier plans to continue the sit-in overnight were called off.

"We're out of business; we're gone. I've just been told that we're at the bottom of a list of unsecured creditors," said Martin O'Sullivan, co-owner of a carpet and rugs concession in the store.

"The people still inside are very annoyed. KPMG have offered a two-week basic redundancy package.

"It's a mean spirited way to deal with people, many of whom have been there for years."

Speaking to independent.ie, shop stewart Teresa Hannick, SIPTU sector organiser, said workers have been left "shellshocked" by the announcement.

She also said staff were ordered by security to leave the building.

The High Court earlier appointed joint provisional liquidators to the company.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan appointed insolvency practitioners Eamon Richardson and Kieran Wallace of KPMG, as joint provisional liquidators of OCS Operations Ltd, which since 2012 operated Clerys.

The High court appointed joint provisional liquidators to the company that operates the department store in Dublin.

Read more: High Court appoints liquidators to Clerys department store  

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan appointed insolvency practitioners Eamon Richardson and Kieran Wallace of KPMG as joint provisional liquidators of OCS Operations Ltd, which since 2012 operated Clerys.

The company petitioned the court for the liquidators appointment saying the store must immediately cease trading to prevent any further debts arising.

The court heard the company is unlikely to have sufficient monies to make upcoming payments, including those due early next week, and is unable to pay its debts.

The liquidators would be best placed to preserve the value of the business, deal with employees, the concession holders and creditors, the company said.

The company employs 130 people while approximately another 330 are employed by the 50 concession holders, who operate from department store.

Earlier, one employee told independent.ie that they only learned of the news that the company had been sold to real estate firm Natrium this afternoon.

“We were only told about 1.30pm, after it was on the news, that the company had been sold,” she said.

“Up to now (4.40pm) we still haven’t met our new owners. We’re all a bit worried and don’t know what’s happening.”

The anxious woman said shop management told unions representatives at 1.25pm about the take over.

“The union reps have told us they’re looking for a meeting with the new management, but there’s no one here from them.

“My union said they were a bit worried because a real estate agents bought it.

“We have been taken over, but no one from the new company is here. Mandate hasn’t been told what’s happening,” she added.

Trade unions are seeking an “urgent” meeting with the new owners of Clerys over fears for around 120 jobs.

Staff are “worried and upset” after the sale of the department store to a group led by property investors D2 Private, according to Michael Meegan an organiser with the Mandate Trade Union.

 “The hope was it (Clerys) would be sold to a retailer, but that is not what has materialised,” he told Independent.ie.

He contacted to the new owners seeking an urgent meeting as soon as the sale was announced, he said.

Clerys is an iconic brand, he said.

“If it does go it will do a lot of damage to businesses on O’Connell St,” he said.

Natrium Ltd is a joint venture between D2 Private and discretionary funds managed by Cheyne Capital Management, which is based in the UK.

Irish property company D2 Private, meanwhile, is led by Irish businesswoman Deirdre Foley.

The store had been owned by OCS Operations, which is part of the US-based private equity and investment company Gordon Brothers Group.

In a statement issued today, Gordon Brothers Group said: "Gordon Brothers Europe, the European Advisory, restructuring and investment affiliate of Gordon Brothers Group, announces that it has completed the sale of OCS Investment Holdings, the owner of Clerys Department Store, for an undisclosed sum, to the real estate company Natrium Ltd, which is a joint venture between D2 Private and discretionary funds managed by Cheyne Capital Management (UK) LLP. Quadrant Real Estate Advisors from Atlanta also provided financing in respect of the transaction."

Clerys currently employs approximately 80 people.

The deal comes just weeks after a big money battle for control of the nearby Arnotts Department Store saw investor Noel Smyth emerge in control of the business.

Read more: Under the clock: a fresh start for iconic Clerys

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