SNU drops Psychic News liquidation

Just before the start of the Psychic News creditors’ meeting in London, yesterday, the Spiritualists’ National Union (SNU) did a spectacular about-turn — changing its mind about appointing a liquidator for the company that published the 78-year-old weekly Spiritualist newspaper. This last-minute decision, it seems, was inspired by an examination of the accounts, not by any desire on its part to resurrect the publication.

Those of us who want to see Psychic News (PN) survive as an independent newspaper have been baffled by the way in which the SNU has been handling the publication’s financial difficulties (who, in heaven’s name, has been advising them?). Its actions culminated in the planned liquidation process, which can be expensive (liquidators don’t come cheap) and is likely to leave creditors with even less return than if a business is wound down.

Sanity, therefore, seems to have been restored to some degree – prompted, undoubtedly, by the professional advice of Berley accountants, who would have been appointing a liquidator.

It now remains to be seen if that return of sanity extends to the vital question of assets. The SNU maintains that it owns the title of the newspaper and its other assets and that they were not owned by Psychic Press (1995) Ltd.

Now that it has abandoned liquidation, it surely is in a position to sell the company to whoever wants to buy it. It says it is open to offers, but I’ve no idea whether that means for Psychic Press (1995) minus the disputed assets, or whether it will put up for sale a complete package of the newspaper, its title, its photographic and newspaper archives, its library and various paintings of the founders and related material. That’s what was presented to the union in 1995 and that’s what the Spiritualist movement expects the Union to make available to anyone who wants to keep PN running as an independent newspaper.

There are potential buyers waiting in the wings with the money to buy this package and the commitment to keep the newspaper running in some form. Their earlier negotiations broke down because they were not, unsurprisingly, interested in buying it if those vital assets had been plundered by the SNU.

If the SNU says those assets are still not for sale, we must ask why? What reason would it have for keeping them? And what would it achieve, apart from ensuring Psychic News is killed off as an independent voice of Spiritualism, and its own reputation is even more tarnished.

Leslie PriceI am currently in Hong Kong, so I asked my good friend, Leslie Price (right) – a regular contributor to PN as well as a noted historian of Spiritualism – who attended the creditors meeting, to let me know what had happened. Here is his report, which he has also shared with Lis and Jim Warwood who have been campaigning tirelessly for PN on their Spiritualism Link website:

Plans to appoint a liquidator for Psychic Press were abandoned by the SNU shareholders minutes before a creditors’ meeting in London on Wednesday.

The SNU told creditors at an informal meeting that, instead, it was intended to wind down the company gradually. There would be no general resumption of trading, but the Psychic News web site would be re-activated for the limited sale of books. It was hoped to gradually repay a proportion of the money owing to creditors, firstly trade, then subscribers. The SNU had already voluntarily repaid money paid for fund raising events (any one accidentally omitted should contact Psychic Press again).

The Union once more asserted its ownership of the title, archives and other PN assets, but said they were open to offers about PN‘s future.

David BrutonBerley, the accountants who were intended to act as liquidator, are now ending their involvement, and any queries about Psychic Press should be addressed to the executive director, Mark Bradley.
Graham Hewitt
The SNU were represented at the meeting by David Bruton (left), Charles Coulston, Mark Bradley and Graham Hewitt (right).

The prospective liquidator explained to the meeting that once his fees had been paid the sale of any assets (books, etc) was likely to leave little or nothing for creditors.

Graham Hewitt, spokesman for the SNU shareholders, said that the title, archives, etc, of PN had passed to the SNU in 1995, as confirmed by a 1995 STF letter to them. We shall doubtless hear more on this point.

How open the SNU is to an offer for PN may soon be discovered by the JV Trust or any prospective purchaser. Other SNU representatives at the meeting remained largely silent.

The liquidator and his colleague seemed quite relieved not to be further involved in SNU affairs. He expressed his particular irritation with messages from Australia!*

The impression was given that the decision not to proceed with the liquidation arose from a consideration of the accounts, etc, in the last few days, making it impossible to cancel the meeting.

What is certain is that the money spent on preparing for the liquidation could have paid for PN to appear for longer, giving time for orderly changes.

The PN staff remain dispensed with and are likely, I fear, to get only a little from the gradual winding down of the company.

There was a low attendance at the meeting: one subscriber; a supplier of Ursula Roberts books; Susan Farrow and Paul Brett [former editor and assistant editor]. Sue was proxy for Cissy Shaw, director of Psychic Press (1995) and Paul was proxy for the International Spiritualist Federation, who had paid for advertising not received. This low attendance rather confirms what Geoff Griffiths (currently abroad) fears – that Spiritualists will not turn out for a meeting unless there are at least three mediums demonstrating!

*A reference to Lis and Jim Warwood’s online forum.

Thanks Leslie. I will, of course, report on any further developments as soon as I am made aware of them.

This whole episode has been a farce and, sadly, it isn’t over yet. There are still issues that will need to be dealt with which are quite separate from Psychic News‘ future, if it has one.

My advice to the SNU is to sever all connection with Psychic News, now that you are unable to give it the support you have done for the past 15 years, and sell it – complete with its title and all other assets – to whoever believes they can keep it alive.

I believe the Berley representative expressed surprise than some creditors were making such a fuss over being owed subscriptions that amounted to only £6. Clearly, he is not a Spiritualist and has no idea how much Psychic News means to many people. It is part of the Spiritualist movement’s heritage and we should do what we can to keep it going.

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