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Last Updated: Monday, 13 November 2006, 00:44 GMT
Farepak boss 'sorry' for collapse
Catalogue detail from Farepak website
Farepak customers have been fighting to win compensation
The managing director of collapsed Christmas hamper company Farepak has apologised to his customers.

Nick Gilodi-Johnson said his family was "devastated" for the more than 150,000 customers who lost money.

Earlier, a Labour MP asked the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee to question Sir Clive Thompson - chairman of EHR, which owns Farepak - and EHR's bankers.

Sir Clive and Mr Gilodi-Johnson said Halifax Bank of Scotland was to blame for the collapse. The bank denies this.

Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS) provided an overdraft facility to Farepak's owner European Home Retail (EHR), and the decision not to extend the overdraft eventually led to administrators being called in.

'Tragedy'

Mr Gilodi-Johnson, whose father founded Farepak, said in a statement the company had been "healthy and solid" but EHR "was not so fortunate".

"Despite our efforts to resolve the situation, it was ultimately forced into receivership after HBOS terminated its long-standing credit facility.

"I honestly thought there was a workable solution which would have safeguarded all our customers' money, but the bank did not agree."

I am really gutted that everybody has lost out like this
Farepak managing director Nick Gilodi-Johnson

Swindon-based Farepak went into administration and ceased trading in October without offering compensation.

More than 150,000 customers - mainly on low incomes - lost an average of 400 each, although some lost closer to 2,000.

Mr Gilodi-Johnson said: "What has happened to Farepak and its customers is nothing short of a tragedy.

"I feel its loss with immense sadness as it was a business my father founded and devoted his life to building and strengthening.

"We both cared passionately about it and about the fact it was able to help so many families through Christmas.

"The shares in the company my father built are now worthless, but I appreciate that is of no comfort to the tens of thousands of our customers whose Christmas hopes have been dashed by these terrible developments."

He added on BBC News: "I am really gutted that everybody has lost out like this. I am really so sorry."

'Hung out to dry'

The Department of Trade and Industry has launched an investigation into what happened at Farepak.

A fund has also been set up to help the families affected. Firms that have promised to donate money include HBOS, Christmas hamper supplier Park Group and Marks & Spencer.

Mr Gilodi-Johnson said his family would also be making a donation.

More than 100 Farepak savers attended a meeting in West Lothian on Sunday with Jim Devine, the MP for Livingston.

Mr Devine says he wants Sir Clive and HBOS to "stand in front of Scottish MPs to answer questions we all want to hear".

Sir Clive said HBOS refused to support Farepak because of a 1.5m funding shortfall, and had rejected five proposed rescue packages.

But an HBOS spokesman said Farepak's requests for the bank to "ringfence" savers' money could not have been serious.

There was no money to ringfence, because the money was used as working capital by EHR, he said.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Nicholas Gilodi-Johnson speaks to Five Live



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