Facia facing liquidation

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The Independent Online
Facia, the collapsed retailer run by controversial Sheffield businessman Stephen Hinchliffe, is set to go into liquidation shortly with the appointment of accountants Stoy Hayward.

The move will be accompanied by good news of sorts for Facia's ordinary creditors: the payout is expected to be at the top end of the pounds 700,000 to pounds 5.6m range indicated in August.

That follows better-than-expected recovery of assets by Facia's receivers KPMG and Grant Thornton but still means a possible payout of less than10p in the pound following the pounds 70m crash of the Sock Shop-to-Saxone shoes group in June.

Stoy Hayward is understood to be the choice of retail giant Sears for the liquidation of all the Facia companies, against which it has lodged a pounds 30m claim.

The likely appointment follows the withdrawal of rival Buchler Phillips, which was seen by Sears as too close to Mr Hinchliffe.

It is also likely to lead to further legal action against Mr Hinchliffe's web of private companies to recover disputed payments of more than pounds 10m.

These include pounds 2m in "finders' fees" for Facia's deals and a corporate jet and pounds 430,000 of helicopter expenses to Chase Montagu, Mr Hinchliffe's master private company.

Mr Hinchliffe is already under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office and is expected to be interviewed soon.

The receivers will also file adverse reports shortly to the Department of Trade and Industry, which is already seeking to disqualify him as a director over another collapse in 1993.

Last week, Mr Hinchliffe won more time to present his defence in that case, which will now be heard later next year.

Yesterday he seemed prepared for one last battle over the liquidation. "There has been no agreement at all," he said through his solicitor. His refusal, however, might yet lead to a pre-emptive winding-up petition from Sears, sources say.