IBS-STL announces sale of Authentic, STL and Wesley Owen stores

IBS-STL UK has announced the sale of Authentic Media and STL Distribution, as well as a significant number of Wesley Owen stores.

Authentic Media has been bought out by the Eastbourne-based media group Kingsway, while Australian Christian company Koorong has taken over Authentic Book Publishing and eight Wesley Owen branches.

Scottish book distributor John Ritchie Ltd, a subsidiary of The Lord's Work Trust, has purchased STL Distribution and its Carlisle properties and now plans to make the town its main base.

News of the sales end weeks of uncertainty over the future of STL, Authentic and Wesley, pillars of the book and music market in the UK.

IBS-STL said completion of the sale agreements was expected to be finalised by the weekend, at which time the new owners would take control.

"This is regarded as extremely good news and ends a period of uncertainty and anxiety for many of our employees," said IBS-STL in a statement.

It said a further six Wesley Owen stores had been acquired by Christian Literature Crusade, while discussions are ongoing to save the remaining 26 branches through the help of local organisations.

The new owners are to purchase the assets of the parts of the business, while the IBS-STL charity will be put into administration for "an orderly wind down".

Commenting on the sales, Keith Danby Chief Executive said, “I am delighted with the developments.

"I could not have imagined five weeks ago such a positive outcome.

"All along we have had three goals in mind; the continuity of the distribution of Christian resources, safeguarding as many jobs as possible, and finding purchasers who would invest in the businesses and take them to a new level.

"We believe all of the purchasers fit these aspirations and we wish them every success going forward.”

Danby paid tribute to staff across the UK, sayibg it had been a difficult time for everyone.

"Some have worked for the charity for almost 20 years. They are dedicated, hardworking and passionate about the mission of the charity," he said.

"It has been a very difficult year for everyone and the uncertainty of the last month has created extraordinary anxiety for people with families, financial commitments and obligations yet they have continued to fight for the survival of the company and done their very best to keep going.”

Michael Fitch, Chairman of the Board of Trustees also stated his delight.

"The work of Authentic, STL Distribution and Wesley Owen is very important in advancing the Christian faith in the UK and we are delighted that this work will continue under the ownership of these high calibre operators," he said.

"I want to also thank all of the employees for their hard work under difficult circumstances”.

Russell Cash, partner at Baker Tilly Restructuring & Recovery, said: “IBS –STL has suffered from a number of financial difficulties over the last few years, including the failed implementation of a new computer system in October 2008.

"The effects of this have caused cash flow pressures, excess stock, and supply chain difficulties. These problems have been exacerbated by the economic downturn.

“We have received a great deal of interest across the group and though it is very satisfying to safeguard such a significant number of jobs, there are still a large number of retail units that we are now focused on looking to sell.

"It is our aim to work hard over the next few months in a bid to secure new buyers and investment for the remaining stores.”