Bosses scotch fears of pie plant closure

Pies being made at Pooles in Pemberton
Pies being made at Pooles in Pemberton

THE new bosses of a famous Wigan pie factory have reassured staff that it is business as usual after concerns were raised that it had gone to the wall.

An online news report stated this week that Pooles had been liquidated by administrators looking to pay back millions of pounds worth of debt run up during the previous management’s tenure.

But the liquidation refers to only certain assets and not the Pemberton plant or its machinery.

And Yorkshire-based Country Style Food, which bought Pooles from Dave Whelan for a reported £2,35m last month, said that the Wigan pie factory was unaffected by the latest developments.

It has, however, been a turbulent time for the long-running firm.

Latics chairman Mr Whelan orginally planned to sell the business last year to Neil Court-Johnston for £4m on the understanding that he did not have to pay anything for three years. He also said he lend Mr Court-Johnston £2m as an overdraft facility to help establish themselves.

But he became increasingly concerned as debts increased and sales fell. Then Mr Court-Johnston became the subject of an investigation over alleged industrial espionage by recruiting staff from his former workplace, Hollands Pies, in breach of contract.

Eventually a concerned Mr Whelan stopped the sale going through, took the company into administration and then organised the sale of the Kilshaw Street building and its equipment, over which he had held a debenture, to Country Style Foods.

Today a statement for the new management was issued about the liquidation confusion. It read: “We want to clarify that what is going on with the company is nothing to do with the Wigan site.

“The Pooles name continues and we will continue to produce pies for our customers from there.”

Pooles is one of the oldest surviving bakery brands to have been in continuous production in the country and Mr Whelan said today that he saw no reason why it couldn’t continue that way.