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London fit-out specialist Cameron Black's 'demise shuts sites'

Exclusive: London fit-out specialist Cameron Black has closed construction sites and it is in the process of appointing BDO as administrators, Construction News understands.

In an email sent to subcontractors working on a £2m office fit-out for the Royal College of Ophthalmologists on 11 January, seen by Construction News, Cameron Black project manager Kit Chung offered what she described as a “feeble apology” for the inconvenience and problems caused by Cameron Black’s “financial situation”.

Ms Chung said in the email that the contractor’s sites would remain closed and inactive, and advised subcontractors to seek employment elsewhere in the wake of Cameron Black’s “demise”.

Construction News has been told that the directors of Cameron Black are in the process of appointing BDO as administrators.

However, when contacted by Construction News, BDO business restructuring partner Matthew Tait said: “It is highly sensitive. I am unable to make any comment.”

In her email to subcontractors, Ms Chung said: “While the insolvency company has not been called in as yet, our sites are to remain shut and inactive and employees are advised to seek employment elsewhere.”

She added: “We realise this will come as a huge blow [to] you all as most of you are owed a substantial amount of money. 

“We are reliably informed by [managing director] Simon Black that the administrators will do everything they can to obtain the money owed to Cameron Black from clients in order to pay Cameron Black creditors ie yourselves.

“Certain key members of staff will be engaged to ensure this happens.”

A group of five subcontractors claiming to be owed money by Cameron Black have engaged law firm Fenwick Elliott and are seeking to have Begbies Traynor appointed as a co-administrator to look after their interests.

Construction credit agency Top Service said that a county court judgement was registered against Cameron Black on 7 January 2014 for £20,548.

Ms Chung’s email added: “We can only offer a feeble apology for all the inconvenience and the problems caused to you as a result of the financial situation of the company.

“It has been beyond our control and has proven extremely turbulent and stressful for you, your companies and possibly your families.”

Cameron Black specialises in the commercial, high-end residential, private healthcare and leisure sectors, according to its website.

It has worked for clients including Asos, Google, Virgin and Land Securities on office fit-out projects.

Among the projects Cameron Black had been employed on was a fit-out job at the £2m Royal College of Ophthalmologists office near Euston.

It is understood that the scheme project manager Jackson Coles will retender the contract, but is engaging directly with subcontractors employed by Cameron Black.

Ms Chung’s email said: “We will happily pass on your details to Jackson Coles who is happy to continue the relationship with you as the demise of [Cameron Black] has not been caused by yourselves.

“It makes sense to engage as much of you as possible, provided of course you are happy to proceed.”

Cameron Black’s latest accounts for the year ended 30 September 2012 revealed the business made a loss of almost £1.6m on a turnover of £28m.

The directors’ report, published in July 2013, said: “Cameron Black had a very hard year with the industry again showing no immediate signs of improvement.

“Margins have continued to be extremely tight in competitive tender situations and this has been reflected in the results.”

At the time, the directors said while they envisaged margins would remain tight in the next financial year, they expected the business to return to profit.

“The stream of work going into next year shows an upward trend and the repeat business levels continue to grow,” the firm added in the report. “A significant improvement to margins is expected in the second half of 2013 providing a much improved profit in the medium term.”

Cameron Black was founded in 1999 by managing director Simon Black and director Rupert Shaw. They were then joined in 2006 by director Stuart Johnson and in 2008 by Bob Thomson, who became a director in 2011.

The directors of Cameron Black have been contacted for comment by phone and email. Ms Chung has been contacted for comment. Jackson Coles has been contacted for comment.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Sadly, this is an ongoing trend.

    Companies, in all areas of Construction, have to cut margins to compete at tender level. Thus, when unforseen circumstances prevent themselves, there is no room for manoeuvre such is the tight profit margin.

    I work in the Security Sector - providing Electronic Security Services: The sector has seen a decrease in Security rates from an average £450.00 + Vat per week 10 years ago - down to an average £199.00 + Vat per week. Yet the cost of providing the service has increased significantly year on year. To ensure we are competitive, we are forced to lower our rate skirting with administration until there is an upturn.

    Not only are we forced to offer more for less to stay in business. We have also become 'Cheap Insurance' for the Construction Companies. Although we install more equipment than what the Construction Company is willing to pay for - in many instances it will not be enough to guarantee 100% detection of theft/intrusion (Lets be sensible about this, if you want to secure your site as a high security prison you will have to pay the high security prison rate) So, when an intrution has not been detected, which is possible, particularily when your construction site is targetted and thieves have taken considerable time to gain access without detection - the Construction Company comes after the Security Company for it's losses: The Security Company is under pressure to 'pay-out' or lose its contract/business with the customer even though they have not been negligent, but have provided the customer with more than their budget could afford.

    The budgte within the Construction sector for Electronic Security needs to be increased to allow those who provide a higher level of service to remain.

    'Rate killing' can only be maintained in the short term. If it continues indefinately, the Security Sector will lose the professional experienced providers in place of new shoddy inexperienced providers who are paid crap and provide crap - which in turn means that your site is not secure: Not Secure from intrusion and theft, and not Secure from that child who wants to play in your scaffolding every weekend

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