Wrightbus owner ‘made God a shareholder’ as it recorded £1.7m loss

Bus builder donated £4m to Christian charities in 2017

Jeff Wright at the Green Pastures Church in Ballymena. Photograph: Stephen Davison

Jeff Wright at the Green Pastures Church in Ballymena. Photograph: Stephen Davison

 

Wrights Group is ultimately controlled by the Cornerstone Group Limited, which in 2017 made charitable donations of £4.15 million (€4.7 million) to fund “the group’s commitment to Christian, evangelical and other charitable activities”. The company justified the payment “given the strong financial position of the group”. However, in the same year it made a pretax loss of £1.7 million.

Cornerstone has three listed shareholders including pastor Jeffrey William Wright, known as pastor Jeff, and the son of William Thompson Wright, who controls almost 69 per cent of the company; Wright Evangelical Trust, which controls 26 per cent of the company; and Lorraine Roberta Rock, who controlled just below 5 per cent of the group. The company bought Ms Roberta Rock’s shares back in April of this year for £1 million, leaving pastor Jeff in sole control. That came despite reports that its subsidiary, Wrights Group, had been looking for cash.

Evangelical trust

In an interview with The Irish Times in November 2017, pastor Jeff noted that Cornerstone “made God a shareholder in the business” as 26 per cent of Wrights is owned by the evangelical trust.

Despite being primed to take over the bus builder, pastor Jeff told The Irish Times he felt God had a new question for him. “Do you love me more than these buses?’ I said, ‘yeah, I do’. So God said ‘I want you to feed my lambs and take care of my sheep’.”

He then founded Green Pastures, the People’s Church in 2007 and is in the process of developing an evangelical superchurch on a 97-acre site near the family factory in a Ballymena industrial estate.

The church had net income of £4.34 million in the year ended April 2018 of which £4.18 million came from individuals and corporate bodies. It closed out the period with a £3.2 million surplus.