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“I’m sorry”: Founder of $68 million shipping company blames banks for collapse

The founder and director of a shipping company based in Brisbane with a turnover of $68.5 million placed an apology letter on the internet after the company was placed in receivership.

Skelton Sherborne specialises in transporting heavy equipment around the world and has offices worldwide with 25 staff.

However last week Deloitte was appointed by HSBC bank as receivers to the company.

Deloitte is continuing to trade the business while offering it for sale, with advertisements placed in newspapers this week.

Frustrated by his lack of control over his own company, Brad Skelton, the founder and director of Skelton Sherborne, posted an emotional apology letter to customers and staff on his blog yesterday entitled “I’m sorry!”

“Skelton Sherborne has truly great people who I can say without reservation are among the shipping industry's best in the world,” the letter says.

“I thank them for the dedication to company and for their hard work. I am personally doing my best not to let them or their families down.”

In the letter Skelton attributes the company’s receivership as a result of losing the support of its bank, HSBC.

“Late on Tuesday the 20th of November without warning or notice they froze Skelton Sherborne's bank accounts,” he says.

“The company was not outside of any bank covenants or limits. Furthermore the company was trading very profitably having just delivered the best four months results in years.

“The company did not have a single default or judgment against it that would give justification for our banks action.”

grab-shipping

Skelton says since late September last year HSBC imposed a rapid step down of the credit facilities the company relied upon and required the business to reduce one of those facilities by $100,000 once a week every Friday or they threatened receivership.

“I am proud to say that with the tremendous help and support of my team, long standing clients, suppliers and friends that Skelton Sherborne met this step down as impossible as it initially seemed,” he says.

Skelton says the company continued to trade profitably and he though the receivership threat from the bank was removed even though Skelton Sherborne’s cash flow was under pressure.

“HSBC's action in freezing our accounts last week paralyzed us to pay customs, shipping lines and other suppliers in order to ensure smooth cargo and service delivery to our valued clients,” Skelton says.

“The company immediately engaged our lawyers to try and get this freeze lifted, seek our banks justification for this action and to reserve our rights to claim for any losses and damages caused.”

However Skelton was unable to get HSBC to lift the freeze and all of Skelton Sherborne’s banking facilities were cancelled and withdrawn. It was also given an immediate demand to payout the full balance of the remaining facilities.

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Cara Waters

SmartCompany editor

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Cara Waters is the editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Cara was a senior reporter at the Financial Times website FT Adviser in London and she also worked for The Sunday Times in London.
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