Vion has vigorously rejected accusations it staged a sham attempt to sell its Hall’s of Broxburn business, after a private equity firm claimed it tried to buy Broxburn but found Vion unwilling to engage.
Vion announced earlier this week it would close the pig processing site, which employs 1,700 staff, after it was unable to find a viable buyer.
Since Vion’s announcement, Steve Green - MD of Graf Capital - has come forward to claim Graf had approached Vion to buy the business only to find Vion was not serious about a sale. “Over the past four weeks, I have had many meetings, phone calls and exchanges of correspondence with Vion and their adviser regarding their attempts to ‘sell’ the business known as Hall’s of Broxburn; at no point did I ever believe the business was for sale,” Green wrote in a comment to thegrocer.co.uk.
He went on to claim that Vion showed little interest in how a bid from Graf could save jobs, and described Vion’s assertion that Graf’s offer was not viable or sustainable as “an absolute disgrace - what could be worse than closing a plant?”
He added: “Vion have gone on the record as saying the ‘losses [at Hall’s of Broxburn] were unsustainable’ and they were unable to turn the business around. I find it incredible that Vion have now found our business plan was not viable. I find it reprehensible that it will not sell the business to Graf and at least give the staff a fighting chance. We had plans for the business, which we are convinced would have meant few, if any, permanent job losses.”
Green also claimed Graf had offered a seven-figure sum for Broxburn. However, his assertions were dismissed as “inaccurate” and “untruths” by Vion UK chairman Peter Barr. Instead of offering a seven-figure sum, Green had, in fact, demanded Vion pay him an eight-figure sum in cash to take over the business, Barr claimed. “In addition, he also fails to reference the fact that he asked for all equipment, vehicles, stock and transitional services to be provided to him at no cost, the value of which we would estimate at a similar amount,” he added.
At the same time, Green had been unwilling to provide Vion with basic information about his bid, Barr said, further dismissing Green’s claim in some parts of the media that Vion was closing Broxburn because it no longer wanted to source or breed pigs in Scotland as “untrue”.
“In summary, I am appalled at the serious inaccuracies and, in several cases, blatant untruths included in Mr Green’s comments,” Barr said. “We have on many occasions urged him to provide us with full details of his business plan and funding, which he has refused to do. He also refused to have independent accountants verify the funding he claims is available for the turnaround.”
“Sadly, by issuing these inaccurate statements via the media, Mr Green has done nothing to assist the process of progressing a sale of the Hall’s site. His only achievement has been to raise false hopes amongst our employees that the plant could be saved.”
Green responded: “To date we have received no response from Vion. They have, however, embarked on a campaign of trying to smear the Graf bid.”
“This is a cynical distraction. The loss of 1,700 jobs should not be handled as a corporate game. We have issued a press release to deal with the inaccuracies within their statement, but feel Vion are turning this into a charade.”
“We have spoken to the other bidder today, who did not bid as Vion stated. They have evidence that Vion were running down the site during the 90-day consultation period and the business was not for sale.”