Haley Sharpe Design in debt crisis

Gary Noakes, 10.12.2009
Design company working with Museum of Liverpool fights for survival following unpaid debt of £1.1m

Museum consultancy Haley Sharpe Design says it has bank support for a restructuring that will prevent its collapse.


The Leicester-based firm is seeking a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) after being landed with an unpaid £1.1m debt from the stalled F1-X Grand Prix theme park in Dubai. 


A CVA allows the company to continue trading if a meeting of creditors and suppliers next week agrees it is a viable concern.


Director Bill Haley said: “We are positive, we have been in this industry a long time – 28 years - and have a lot of good friends out there.” 


Haley Sharpe is designing two of the Museum of Liverpool’s four major galleries, its Global City and Creative City galleries, plus its Little Liverpool children’s gallery.

A meeting took place on Monday this week after which Sharon Granville, Museum of Liverpool executive director, said it supported the CVA bid.


“They have kept us fully informed of the situation throughout the process and we are confident that their current situation will not affect their ability to deliver their part of the Museum of Liverpool to schedule,” she said.


Dilip Dattani, a partner with Tenon Recovery, which is advising Haley Sharpe, said the company owed £2.7m to around 250 creditors but added that its plight was due to the one large debt.


“It is a ringfenced reason for the distress. Historically, the business has been profitable. We are fairly confident that the creditors are giving positive signals,” he said.


Work on F1-X was suspended in February for 12 months despite being 50 per cent complete. Hayley Sharpe was involved with “three or four” pavilions portraying the history of Formula One.


Haley said he was “still negotiating” with developers Union Properties and added: “We have a lot of other good work on.”


Haley Sharpe has offices in Durban and Toronto but its Middle East business is run from the UK.

It is both a design and build consultancy, meaning that it is potentially more exposed than other design companies.

It has had to make about a dozen redundancies among its 60 staff.


Martyn Best, chief executive of cultural planning consultancy Cultural Innovations said: “Things are definitely difficult in the Middle East. Whatever the contracts say, your payment terms ultimately become what they want them to be. We have a right to be paid within 30 days. We have just received one payment six months late.” Best said companies should be aware they were working under local laws. “You don’t have the commercial protection you do here.”

He said there would be “serious repercussions” from Dubai’s difficulties because many projects were funded by new housing, but said others in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi Arabia were backed by oil and natural gas wealth.


The creditors’ meeting takes place on December 17 at 11am at Tenon Recovery, 1 Bede Island Road Leicester.