Monday 21 October 2019

'There have been threats to the lives of family members' - son of Wrightbus founder

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

Independent.ie Newsdesk

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

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)

"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.

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.

Read more: 1,200 jobs lost as iconic bus firm put into administration

Security workers close the gates at the Wrightbus plant in Ballymena after the business went into administration (Liam McBurney/PA)
Security workers close the gates at the Wrightbus plant in Ballymena after the business went into administration (Liam McBurney/PA)

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.

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.

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.

Belfast Telegraph

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