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Family firm faces court battle with Japanese tobacco giant

By Cheddar Valley Gazette  |  Posted: September 27, 2012

The family behind Charles of Cheddar. Mum Nancy Tame, daughters Rebecca Mann and Angela Hall and director Jim Tame

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The family behind chocolate and tobacco distributor Charles of Cheddar stand behind their father who faces creditors in court.

Despite being retired, Jim Tame, 82, faces a bankruptcy order in Bristol County Court on Tuesday.

The family say it is unfair and blame Lloyds Commercial Finance and Japan Tobacco International (JTI).

A statement from the family said: “The impact of this on our father is astronomical.

“It has caused considerable worry, excess stress to both him and our mother and is affecting his poor health further.

“As JTI tobacco have refused to accept the offer it means that on October 2 our 82-year-old father will be in court and made bankrupt with an extreme possibility of losing the house and being made homeless.”

Mr Tame, who has a catalogue of community involvement like being a former chairman of both Cheddar Cricket Club and Royal British Legion, an ex-parish councillor and coach for Cheddar Football Club youth teams, has suffered two minor strokes and has a 90 per cent blocked carotid artery.

Charles of Cheddar, based on Cheddar Industrial Estate, went into administration in July, leaving 17 people jobless.

The firm was a wholesale distributor that stocked West Country retail outlets, fuel forecourts, schools and leisure centres with confectionery, soft drinks, alcohol and tobacco.

Mr Tame founded Charles of Cheddar in the 1950s and his family say the problems began at the start of this year when Lloyds bank changed the account manager dealing with the company. They claim Lloyds started to reduce the business’s overdraft by £50,000 per month.

In May cheques made to the tobacco companies did not clear.

The statement from Mr Tame’s family said: “In our opinion Lloyds Commercial Finance and JTI have acted in an utterly callous manner, without any consideration for the effects of their actions.

“The closing of this small business will have a minimal impact on them but has massive implications for our father at his stage of life.”

A statement from Lloyds TSB said: “We had been providing ongoing lending support for Charles of Cheddar.

“Unfortunately the business had been experiencing financial difficulty for some time and we had been working closely with it to help provide the support it needed, for example through the appointment of a specialist relationship manager.

“Following action from a creditor, the business went into administration.”

After discussions with their accountants and financial advisors, Charles of Cheddar proposed to tobacco manufacturer JTI that the debt would be paid back in full over the next five years.

JTI, who manufacture Benson and Hedges, Silk Cut and Amber Leaf tobacco to name a few, refused and insisted on immediate payment or all personal guarantees would be called in full.

Despite retiring from day-to-day running of Charles of Cheddar, Mr Tame remained a director as the firm employed family members and was therefore liable for a personal guarantee to Gallahers, the UK tobacco firm that was absorbed into JTI five years ago. Since the 1950s, Mr Tame’s personal guarantee has grown in size along with the company.

A JTI spokesman said: “It is JTI’s policy not to comment on any ongoing legal proceedings, however, we can confirm that JTI is one of the major creditors to Charles of Cheddar.

“Alongside other creditors JTI is seeking to recover trade credit lent to Charles of Cheddar after pursuing all other options.”

What do you think? Write to editor@mid somnews.co.uk or The Editor, Cheddar Valley Gazette, Southover, Wells, BA5 1UH.

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