Northern Ireland

Wrightbus: Family deny blocking factory deal

Wrightbus factory
Image caption In a statement, the Wright family said that one bidder had agreed to rent the factory but then later withdrew the offer

The family which owned Wrightbus have denied they acted unreasonably during attempts to sell the business.

The Wrightbus factory is owned by Jeff Wright, separately from the manufacturing company.

This is understood to have been a sticking point during the sales negotiation.

In a statement, the Wright family said that one bidder had agreed to rent the factory but then later withdrew the offer.

They said: "Last week there were two final bidders in discussions regarding acquisition of Wright Group.

"A rental agreement for the sites was reached with one bidder, who then pulled out of the deal on Friday 20.

"A second bidder discussed purchasing the sites, but no formal letter of offer was made from that bidder.

"Any reports to the contrary are completely inaccurate."

Image copyright STEPHEN DAVISON/Pacemaker
Image caption Wrightbus's majority shareholder is Jeff Wright, who leads Green Pastures, a religious charity

The Wright Group went into administration on Wednesday.

It had been suffering from financial problems and was up for sale.

The factory which Wrightbus operates from is not owned by a group company.

It is held outside the group by a firm called Whirlwind Property Two.

Whirlwind is controlled by Jeff Wright who is also the main shareholder in Wrightbus.

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Media captionThe PM says the government will do what it can to help after 1,200 job losses at the firm

The prime minister alluded to the issue in a BBC interview earlier.

He said: "The negotiations got very close, there was a particular issue to do with the ownership of the land."

He added that the government would do what it could to help.

Green Pastures 'heartbroken'

Meanwhile, the church led by Mr Wright, Green Pastures, has said it understands "the hurt, anger and confusion felt by so many" over the redundancies at Wrightbus.

The charity received £15m in donations from Wrightbus over six years.

A spokesperson for the church said that many of its congregation "have been personally affected by these job losses" and that it was "especially heartbroken because of the impact this will have on so many individuals and families".

They added: "As with any donation we receive as a church, we are incredibly grateful for the support the Wright family have offered us.

"They, along with many others, chose to be generous when their family business enabled them to do so.

"The leadership, staff and people of Green Pastures Church will continue to love and serve people in our community in and through these challenging times."

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