Life, death and asset stripping?

Maurice BarbanellI was expecting to report some good news about the possible reincarnation of Psychic News, the weekly Spiritualist newspaper founded by Maurice Barbanell (left) which was closed down by the Spiritualists’ National Union (SNU) a few weeks ago. Eric Hatton, a former president of the SNU, together with fellow trustees of the Spiritualist charity JV Trust, had hoped to rescue the newspaper. They have been in talks with SNU representatives but sadly have failed to reach agreement. The JV Trust trustees sent their decision to the SNU on Friday.

So why is it that the SNU has been unable to do a deal with a charity that has been enormously supportive of the Arthur Findlay College and has given financial backing to many other good causes within the Spiritualist movement, including 60 SNU churches?

The answer is surprising. The major stumbling block, as far as I am aware, is that the SNU wanted to sell Psychic News but retain the masthead (title) and its considerable archives. I have already indicated this in comments elsewhere on this blog.

What is new to me is the declaration made by the SNU representatives during those discussions that “the newspaper’s title and its archives are assets of the SNU and always will be”.

How can this be? Surely they are assets of Psychic Press (1995) Ltd, the company which published the newspaper on behalf of the SNU and which the union said it was about to put into liquidation. If Psychic News goes into liquidation, the masthead and the archives will become the property of the liquidator who can then sell the publication and its assets to the highest bidder.

Inclusion of title and archives in the purchase was certainly the expectation of the JV Trust trusteees when they sat down with the SNU’s representatives to hammer out a deal.

If the SNU was not putting the newspaper’s title and its assets on the table, along with everything else, then what was it selling? The answer, as far as JV Trust is concerned, is nothing that is worth buying – and who can blame them?

Apparently, the SNU has been in talks with another potential buyer, but if the masthead and the archives are not part of the package, then I can’t see that it’s going to be of interest to anyone else.

How has the SNU removed these vital components of a publication from the equation? Surely, that’s asset stripping? Talking of which, there are still many people – including me – who are wondering what has happened to the money we paid for events that were going to provide income for PN but which have now been cancelled. Unless I get a refund, I’ll feel as if I’ve been asset-stripped, too.

SilverBirchWhen the Spiritual Truth Foundation presented the newspaper, its title and its archives, together with portrait paintings of Maurice Barbanell and Hannen Swaffer, two of its founders, and a psychic portrait of Silver Birch (right), Barbanell’s spirit guide, to the SNU along with other items, it was a complete package to enable Psychic News to continue to exist as an independent newspaper and retain its heritage. If the SNU is now looking to grab the archives and the title and claim them as its own, it will raise many new questions about the union’s motives and morality, as well as the legality of what it is doing.

How can it strip those assets from Psychic Press (1995) and claim to own them? The SNU is already taking a battering from ardent supporters of the weekly newspaper, and this latest revelation is going to alienate even more Spiritualists.

Clearly, we haven’t heard the last of this whole sorry saga, and I look forward to hearing how the SNU intends to justify its position over these essential assets. A newspaper’s archives – its cuttings, photo library and reference books – are its lifeblood and without them there can be no life after death!

I have been trying to understand the extraordinary behaviour of the SNU in the way it has closed down the world’s only weekly Spiritualist newspaper. It is quite baffling. One possible interpretation is that it has decided to produce Psychic News as its own publication and has laid claim to the newspaper’s archives and other assets in order to do so, leaving very little to sell off when the company is liquidated. If that is its plan, I believe that to be illegal and I suggest it changes its mind very quickly before it finds itself in deep trouble.

If Psychic Press (1995) Ltd goes into liquidation, the above mentioned items must be among the assets which the liquidator puts up for sale to the highest bidder. It is essential that what is sold by the liquidator raises as much as possible for the newspaper’s creditors.

Needless to say, I and many others will be examining the events surrounding Psychic News’ demise and the actions of those involved very closely and challenging any attempt by the SNU to hijack assets that do not belong to it.

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