Newspaper entrepreneur Chris Bullivant has apologised to the freelance journalists left unpaid when his ill-fated Birmingham Press collapsed with debts of £343,000.
As exclusively revealed by HTFP on Wednesday, freelances were owed more than £37,000 for contributions to the short-lived newspaper, with some individuals chasing bills of up to £9,000.
But it has since emerged that Mr Bullivant had already proffered an apology to those affected at a creditor’s meeting held on 11 November.
Yesterday’s Birmingham Post published a full report of the meeting, quoting Mr Bullivant as saying: “I am truly sorry, especially for people who didn’t receive a penny. It is outrageous, but I didn’t know.”
Mr Bullivant was responding to angry accusations from some of the freelances affected, including cricket writer George Dobell, who is owed £5,500.
Mr Dobell told him: “You have to take the responsibility. The buck stops with you, you are the chairman, you are the chief executive.”
Sally Jones, another freelance at the meeting who claims she was owed £2,000, called for a government inquiry into the collapse of CJB Media, the company set up to launch The Press.
Speaking after the meeting, she told the Post: “I think it is important that the Department of Business looks very closely into the behaviour of Mr Bullivant over CJB Media.”
“I was shocked that Mr Bullivant seemed to be trying to gloss over the essential fact that he had failed to ensure that The Birmingham Press had an effective financial structure and was able to pay its bills.
“Whatever the demands of the competitive regional newspaper marketplace, it was inexcusable that he, via the paper’s editor, should solicit widespread coverage from scores of dedicated freelances over many months, but should then allow so many to remain unpaid for all the hard work they had put in.”
Speaking at the meeting, Mr Bullivant claimed he could not compete financially with the advertising rates offered to estate agents by Trinity Mirror, the publisher of the Post and sister daily the Birmingham Mail.
“I have nothing to hide. I am very proud of what my team did in Birmingham. I do not think I have done anything wrong at any time,” he added.