Whether or not the possibility of a group buyout for IBS-STL UK will even be considered by Biblica’s Board and Trustees remains to seen. As of this posting I am still awaiting detailed financial statements from the company, without which it is somewhat difficult to even begin to prepare anything remotely resembling a firm proposal for prospective investors to consider. My understanding, however, is that the level of interest from prospective buyers has exceeded Biblica’s expectations and that discussions with some are well underway: at this stage it appears that a consortium such as I have suggested may not be needed.
Nonetheless, in response to several queries, here is a rough guide to how I would envisage a new business taking shape under a trade/community shared ownership model. This is emphatically not a business plan: it is very much preliminary thinking and all input, for, against or otherwise, is very welcome.
- Freedom of speech, including the use of blogs and social media, will be actively encouraged at all levels.
- SAP will be subjected to intense scrutiny and, given the experience to date, most likely scrapped, to be replaced by a tried and tested system licensed from another wholesaler.
Looking at the three divisions…
1. Wesley Owen
The chain itself would cease to exist. The shops would be rebranded and refocused on their local communities, with consortia of local churches and/or other Christian groups each taking responsibility for their own local branch, with an emphasis upon developing the shop as a social/community hub. Branch managers and staff would be responsible for stock selection with each shop aiming to become self-sufficient within a pre-agreed period.
- Please see Matt Wardman’s post New Ways of Being Bookshop and the appendix of related discussions for some ideas on how this might be taken forward.
2. STL Distribution
The distribution division would be owned and operated by its employees, retailers, publishers and other investors working together. My vision would be for it to be run by a democratic board drawn from amongst the investors and answerable to their fellow investors: a genuine shared ownership company operated by the very people for whom it exists.
- To help tackle the debts, I invite publishers to consider writing off some or all of the amounts owed to them in exchange for part ownership.
- Retailers investing in the operation would be offered preferential trade terms.
3. Authentic Media and Paternoster Press
The publishing division would be offered for sale to other Christian publishing houses, possibly splitting into three segments: music, popular books and academic books. I do not expect, however, this to be an issue as I would be surprised if Biblica have not already found a buyer (or buyers) for this division.
Thank you to all those who have contributed to the discussions so far: please keep your comments and suggestions coming. As previously stated, this is not a business plan, although I hope that it might form the foundation for one. At present the ball remains in Biblica’s court…