Strategy & Operations » Leadership & Management » Has Stevan Fowler been unfairly treated over Farepak collapse?

Six years after the collapse of Farepak, its former management – including finance director Stevan Fowler – are facing possible disqualification. But one name not on the papers handed by the Insolvency Service to the court is Chris Hulland, Fowler’s predecessor who was in post when the 2005 accounts were signed off. And that is confusing to some people.

Financial Director was contacted by individuals who say they worked for Farepak’s parent company European Home Retail (EHR) at the time the brown stuff hit the fan. They think it odd that Fowler, who joined in January 2006, could lose his right to be a director when he took what they say was a sound approach to the crisis, managing a situation not of his making, and they ask why his predecessor Chris Hulland – who was FD of Farepak and subsidiary Kleeneze, both listed businesses at the time – has not been implicated in the case.

Hulland, who joined interim FD business The FD Centre in 2007 as managing principal for its West Midlands business after the Farepak collapse, stands accused by a former employee who contacted Financial Director of weak management which played a role in precipitating the company’s indebtedness.

“It was clear from the outset that there were distractions and problems,” the former employee told Financial Director. “Chris Hulland had let [EHR chief executive] William Rollason pretty much do what he wanted, and the collapse of Choices [its voucher business] led to a cashflow issue … this is the crux of the problem.”

Our source also points to Rollason’s decision to buy The Wonderful Book Company for around £35m and then sell it later for a fraction of the price. “The problems stemmed from [this] business decision made years earlier… all this happened under Chris Hulland’s watch,” he said. “Stevan is a victim of the hysteria surrounding this case. He was unfairly treated throughout this saga.”

Hulland declined to respond to our request for his thoughts on these comments, other than to confirm that he was not named in the disqualification proceedings.

“I left EHR in December 2005 prior to the collapse of Choices in 2006,” he told Financial Director. “I have not been named in the proceedings; neither have I had any contact with the Insolvency Service.”

Likewise, Farepak’s administrator BDO declined to comment, saying that it had no contact with either Fowler or Hulland. It seems imprudent not to talk to Hulland as he was at the heart of Farepak’s finances in the period leading up to its collapse – but it also seems the authorities reckon they’ve got their man.