Preston Guild Hall legal row update as Simon Rigby estate ends claim against city council
Written by Skywave Radio News on January 13, 2022
A legal case determining whether Preston City Council acted unlawfully in seizing Preston Guild Hall from then owner Simon Rigby has finally gone before court, with Mr Rigby’s estate officially ending all claims against the authority.
It has also come to light that 100 staff owed a combined £38,000 by Mr Rigby’s company Preston Guild Hall Limited will get ‘at least one pence’ for each pound they are owed.
In 2019, the landmark building was taken under the council’s ownership when it authorised emergency powers to remove it from the late Simon Rigby.
Mr Rigby had bought the venue from the city council for £1 five years earlier but the council took it back citing ‘significant breaches’ of the lease agreement after Mr Rigby closed the venue in May 2019. After the closure, he placed Preston Guild Hall Limited into administration in early June, cancelling numerous live shows and events planned to take place within the entertainment complex.
At the time of closing, Mr Rigby had been in final negotiations with VMS Live over buying the venue, only for the sudden death of its owner ending negotiations.
Following this, Mr Rigby and 13 other business entities launched a legal fight in December 2019 questioning the legitimacy of the seizure.
They alleged that the city council’s decision to take control of the Guild Hall was unlawful while also alleging that the city council should be liable to the 13 other claimants due to losses incurred since the Guild Hall was allegedly seized unlawfully. The city council has denied all allegations of wrongdoing.
But Mr Rigby’s death in August 2020 saw the case mothballed in December of the same year while his estate was resolved.
A part-heard costs and case management conference (CCMC) with the courts resumed on March 22 last year, at which point an order was made for Mr Rigby’s estate to be wound up and ‘administered in bankruptcy’.
As a result, insolvency practitioners Gilbert Lemon, Colin Hardman and Kevin Ley were appointed as trustees of the insolvent estate from May 6. An insolvent estate is where the value of the assets is less than the debts left by someone who dies.
The part-heard CCMC was then meant to be finalised on May 27, according to the report, but was adjourned in order to allow Lemon, Hardman and Ley to “assess their position in relation to the proceedings”, according to administrator Beverley Budsworth.
A January 2022 administrator’s report for Preston Guild Hall Limited has now provided a fresh update, revealing that the part-heard CCMC resumed in November last year, when directions were given for service of amended pleadings and the further conduct of the case.
The trustees of Mr Rigby’s estate have not sought to pursue proceedings but the other entities are continuing to do so.
As yet an amended reply is awaited and no date for trial has been listed.
The report also reveals that a confidential report has been submitted to the Insolvency Service regarding the conduct of previous directors.
Ms Budsworth states: “Due to the detailed nature of these investigations, my review is ongoing and I am unable to comment further at this stage. I confirm that the work which is ongoing in this regard is undertaken on the basis that it may generate a financial benefit for the administration, and enhance the outcome for creditors.”
An update on the administration process explains that around 100 staff who were owed a total of £38,000 in pay and holiday will receive “at least one pence” for each pound they are owed.
A further £66,000 relating to redundancy payments and notice periods is not expected to be paid due to insufficient funds. Those who bought tickets for events which did not go ahead and were unable to reclaim their payments through their card provider are also not expected to receive any money back.
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