The assets of the service company, SFM Services, have been transferred to Pay Store Limited.
Both Store First Freeholds Limited and Pay Store Limited are wholly owned by Jennifer Whittaker, reportedly the wife of Store First CEO Toby Whittaker.
According to the Official Receiver, the sale of Store First’s assets to companies owned by Toby Whittaker’s wife “represented the best outcome for creditors”. The consideration has not been disclosed.
The deal does not appear to mean any recovery for Store First investors – instead, they get the opportunity to surrender their pod (and the ongoing liability for business rates) with Mrs Whittaker’s company covering their cost.
The deal would also see requests by investors to surrender their pods accepted, with Pay Store covering any of the associated costs but no payments being issued to the former owners.
If you ever needed a clearer illustration that when an unregulated investment stops paying out and winding up orders start flying, you should write it off and expect nothing, this is it.
In this case nothing is apparently “the best outcome for creditors”. A sub-optimal outcome would be for unfortunate store pod owners to get less than nothing by holding a pod that they were unable to generate income from but left them liable for business rates.
A winding up order against Store First was originally launched by the Business Secretary back in July 2017. Store First reached an out-of-court settlement in May 2019.
An investigation into the cause of the collapse of the Store First investment opportunity continues, according to the Insolvency Service. According to the Government’s lawyer in the winding up case, over £200m was invested in Store First from UK pension funds and elsewhere.