Norfolk

Bernard Matthews creditors told '£23m debts' will not be paid

Bernard Matthews' headquarters at Great Witchingham, Norfolk Image copyright Geograph/Mark Boyer
Image caption Bernard Matthews, which was owned by Rutland Partners, was sold to food tycoon Ranjit Boparan in September

Former suppliers to the Bernard Matthews turkey business, who were owed money before it was sold, have been told they will not be paid.

The company, which was owned by Rutland Partners, was sold to food tycoon Ranjit Boparan in September.

About 900 suppliers will be left out of pocket by £23m, BBC Radio 4's Farming Today was told.

Mr Boparan said he offered to buy the firm with its debt and pension liabilities but this was rejected.

The turkey firm was bought by investment company Rutland Partners in 2013.

The take-over by the Boparan Private Office, Mr Boparan's private investment arm, was done under a deal struck prior to administration - to protect the value of the company.

As the purchase deal was settled before Bernard Matthews went into administration, a meeting of creditors was not required.

'Not liable'

The deal to save the firm and 2,000 jobs compensates Rutland Partners, but it means the new owner is not liable for its debts or pensions.

A lower level of staff pensions will be paid through a government protection scheme, but there is not the same protection for suppliers which are owed money.

Creditors have now received a letter from the administrator to say they will not get paid or receive compensation.

Deloitte said it was a "typical insolvency where there was not enough money to pay everyone back".

'Viability at risk'

Clarke Willis of Anglia Farmers, which is owed about £10,000, said it provided satellite broadband monitoring of turkey sheds and this had been turned off.

He said non-payment of larger amounts was putting the viability of many other businesses - including those supplying agricultural goods, animal stock, transport and energy - at risk.

"There is no funding mechanism for all of those creditors into the business," he said.

"The letter is fairly stark, and basically says there will be no dividend pay-out whatsoever and therefore in those circumstances they do not have to call a meeting of creditors."

In a statement, Rutland Partners said it had "invested significant funds into the Bernard Matthews business over the last three years".

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