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Exclusive: Here’s what Stewart Milne Group boss told sacked workers as business came crashing down

You can hear for yourself how workers first heard the company had gone bust below.

The exact moment Stewart Milne Group (SMG) employees were told the company had crashed into administration can be revealed for the first time.

The Press and Journal has obtained an audio recording of the live meeting that was called to tell staff the business had gone bust.

In it, SMG chief executive Stuart MacGregor praised workers for their “incredible loyalty and dedication”.

Time up for Stewart Milne Group

Housebuilder SMG went into administration on January 8.

A total of 217 jobs were axed and 112 retained to help with the winding up of operations.

Scottish subsidiaries of SMG, based in Westhill, Aberdeenshire, ceased trading with immediate effect and all live projets were halted.

Last week, sacked workers told the P&J they were “gobsmacked” by the devastating news. About 50 of them attended a union meeting in the Beach Ballroom in Aberdeen.

Sacked Stewart Milne Group workers at the meeting in Aberdeen.
Sacked Stewart Milne Group workers at the meeting in Aberdeen. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Officials from Unite the Union were on hand to explain what happens next. Some of it, such as redundancy pay, is defined by statute.

The ex-SMG workers were also encouraged to claim protective awards.

Unite has claimed SMG failed to properly consult workers about the redundancies.

Stewart Milne’s unfinished business

SMG’s unfinished housebuilding projects include Charleston in Aberdeen, Dunnottar Park in Stonehaven, Monarch’s Rise in Arbroath, Ballumbie Rise in Dundee and Hunter’s Meadow in Auchterarder.

Mr MacGregor was joined on the January 8 video call by joint administrator Gavin Park, of Teneo Financial Advisory.

SMG’s CEO said recent efforts to sell and save the business proved fruitless.

He told staff: “No sale of the company will now take place.

“The absence of a successful sale transaction has, therefore, triggered a default in our main banking facilities.

“It is with the greatest of regret that I have to inform you all that there has been no alternative but to place the company into administration.

‘I am devastated’

“On behalf of myself and the wider group board, I can only express my incredible sadness at this outcome.

“I am devastated for the impact this has on our customers, our supply chain and, of course, our employees who have shown incredible loyalty and dedication in recent challenging times.”

Stewart Milne Homes sign
Stewart Milne Group and its Scottish housebuilding divisions are in administration. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

Mr MacGregor revealed a “large number” of workers had struggled to join the video call.

They were to be sent transcripts.

Outlining next steps, Mr Park said employees would receive contact details and information about the process for claiming redundancy cash and other legal entitlements.

Multiple options considered

He added: “The directors have explored multiple options to secure the future of the business, including running a sales process.

“Unfortunately, that has not resulted in a transaction.

“Other options to restructure the group were not viable.

“As a result, the directors have taken the very difficult decision that trading is unable to continue outside of insolvency.”

Continued trading impossible

Carrying on with SMG’s unfinished projects was “not a practical possibility”, he said.

Limited funding, “significant” trading risks and the administrators’ inability to offer new home warranties meant all building activity had to stop, he added.

A total of 54 workers in SMG’s Scottish operations were retained to help with an “orderly wind-down of the business”.

A further 58 employees of Stewart Milne Homes North West England (Developments) were also retained.

Chilling news no-one wanted to hear

Delivering the chilling news the rest of the workforce was dreading after the opening remarks, Mr Park said: “It is with my deepest regret that I must advise you that your role will end immediately today by reason of compulsory redundancy, for economic reasons.

“I completely understand that being made redundant is both difficult and distressing, particularly in the current environment.

“Me and my colleagues are here to support you at this time to the extent that we are able to do so.”

Stewart Milne Group's unfinished sites include Dunnottar Park in Stonehaven.
Stewart Milne Group’s unfinished sites include Dunnottar Park in Stonehaven. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

Sacked workers would receive “help sheets” along with written confirmation of their redundancy, he said.

Mr Park went on to outline the rules covering all redundancy situations, including the requirement that employees must have worked for the business for at least two years to qualify for payments.

‘Difficult and upsetting’

There is a £643 per week limit to statutory payments.

SMG employees who earned more than this can try to claim the rest from the administration as ordinary creditors.

But the Bank of Scotland will be first in the queue for whatever money there is left.

Ending the video call, Mr Park said: “I fully appreciate and understand that this will be extremely difficult and upsetting news.”

Stewart Milne Group: Where did it all go wrong?

What homebuyers and creditors need to know

Read more: All our stories on the collapse of Stewart Milne Group