Potential rescue deal for WrightBus scuppered by lease

A number of potential buyers walked away from sale discussions because of the way lease arrangements were structured

A worker watches on as security staff close the gates at the Wrightbus plant in Ballymena, Northern Ireland. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A worker watches on as security staff close the gates at the Wrightbus plant in Ballymena, Northern Ireland. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

 

A potential deal that could have saved over a 1,000 jobs at the Ballymena bus firm, Wrights Group, was scuppered because of the factory’s “leasing arrangements”, senior industry sources have indicated.

A number of potential buyers walked away from sale discussions because they were unhappy with how the Wrightbus factory lease arrangements were structured according to senior sources.

Wrightbus, whose parent company is the Cornerstone Group, was based in the Galgorm Industrial Estate on Fenaghy Road in Ballymena.

The factory site is owned by an investment property company, Whirlwind Property Two Limited, this is a company that is controlled by Jeff Wright.

Mr Wright is the son of one of the founders of the Wright Group, William Wright.

Jeff Wright is also a director and trustee of Green Pastures, The People’s Church.

In the latest set of accounts for Whirlwind Property Two it lists its principal activity as the “holding of investment property”.

The accounts for the 12 months to the end of December 2017 show the net book value of the company was more than £5.3 million (€6 million).

The board of Wrights Group placed the company in administration on Wednesday.

Administrators said that because no buyer had emerged for the company that “approximately 1,200 redundancies” had to be made on the day.

Michael Magnay, one of the joint administrators, said: “It is bitterly disappointing for all concerned that despite extensive efforts over recent months it has not been possible to find a buyer who wanted to maintain the business as a going concern.”

According to senior industry sources one of the key stumbling blocks to a sale revolved around the lease arrangements as they stood continuing after any purchase of the business.

Potential buyers wanted the factory land to be a condition of the sale.

It is understood that certain members of the last board of Wrights Group impressed on the directors of Whirlwind Property Two to “come to some arrangement’ that would facilitate the sale of the Wrights Group

But this could not be agreed.

The board of Wrights Group then placed the company in administration on Wednesday.