Unwins could be plunged into administration as early as next week after a high court application by its directors, while The Grocer has uncovered further details of the chain’s plummeting fortunes.
The application relates to Unwins Wine Group, the off-licence chain, and the umbrella company Unwins Limited and has not been made by its creditors. The two businesses will be in a state of interim moratorium until their fate is decided next Tuesday (December 20).
The directors are frantically speaking to
financial institutions, seeking extra capital to enable them to avoid the firm’s collapse. It is also believed that Unwins’ Phillips Newman off-licence business may survive the mess as a separate company.
The latest developments come as The Grocer this week learned that the full acquisition price for Unwins remained unpaid and that one overseas supplier had already stopped distributing to its upmarket Phillips Newman business. According to a source close to the company, the agreed acquisition price was less than the £32m originally mooted. But the Wetz family, which owned the business prior to its takeover by DM Private Equity in March, has yet to receive a portion of the final payment, worth several million pounds.
And Dromana Estate, one of the overseas suppliers Unwins drafted in earlier this year to provide wine for its Phillips Newman outlets, has ceased trading with the retailer until outstanding invoices have been paid. The company had signed a three-year supply agreement.
“Dromana has shipped the first two orders, but has not received payment for the first and the second is due in early December,” said the supplier in a statement. “Dromana has received a part payment. The balance, at this announcement, remains unpaid.
“Dromana has ceased shipping any further orders until the situation is resolved.”
The company was one of the foreign suppliers Unwins turned to after many UK-based drinks firms had refused to supply it in response to overdue bills.
DM Private Equity admitted the payment was outstanding, but said that was because the appropriate invoice had not been issued. “Payment was to be requested in the form of a convertible loan note,” said a spokeswoman for the company. “That note has not been issued and that is why Dromana has not yet been paid.”
Rod Addy