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Beales company to be dissolved with millions unpaid

A closing down sale at Beales in Bournemouth in early 2023
A closing down sale at Beales in Bournemouth in early 2023

THE company that ran the Beales department store chain until it went into administration in 2020 is to be dissolved with creditors millions of pounds out of pocket.

A final report by administrators says unsecured creditors of JE Beale were owed £33.5million and are to receive 1.4 pence in the pound.

The Bournemouth-headquartered retailer went into administration in January 2020, triggering closing down sales that became so busy that administrators had to hire agency staff.

But the sales were ended by the first coronavirus lockdown and the 23 stores closed with the loss of more than 1,000 jobs.

The 139-year-old brand name was sold for £5,000 to a new company, New Start 2020. It reopened the Poole, Southport and Peterborough branches, although it was later revealed that the Peterborough store would close in the early part of this year.

Administrators previously reported that the company owed £12.6m in loans and had a multi-million pound pension deficit.

In their latest report, for the period from July 2022 to January 18 this year, administrators William Wright and Chris Pole of Interpath, said £846,998 had been paid to a secured creditor, Mulino Investments, during that period.

Claims from ordinary preferential creditors, who include staff owed wages and holiday pay, had been agreed at £232,922 and had been paid in full.

Bournemouth Echo: Beales in Bournemouth
Bournemouth Echo: Beales in Bournemouth

Beales in Bournemouth

The administrators said: “The unsecured claims have been agreed at £33.5million. A first and final dividend to unsecured creditors of 1.4 pence in the pound was declared in December 2022 and paid during the period.

“The amount distributed to unsecured creditors was £479,741 (after costs).”

The company will now move from administration to dissolution, the administrators reported.

Creditors will have until July 19 to cash their dividend cheques, after which unclaimed dividends will be forwarded to the Insolvency Service.

Beales was founded in 1881 by John Elmes Beale, who traded as Fancy Fair and Oriental House on the Bournemouth site where the former Beales building still stands.

It was floated on the Stock Exchange in 1995 and remained a publicly listed company for 20 years.

But the company suffered the impact of out-of-town shopping destinations and the rise of online shopping.

Chief executive Tony Brown took control of it in a management buyout in 2018 but administrators were appointed the next year to review the business, triggering a sales process. No buyer was found and the business went into administration in January 2020, with hopes of finding a buyer dashed by the Covid-19 crisis that March.