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Administrators called in as Saville flounders

PLANT - Renewed uncertainty for customers as Case dealer follows its parent company into administration

CASE Construction Equipment's biggest dealer Saville Tractors has voluntarily called in the administrators in the wake of the death of its chairman and majority shareholder Andy Ross.

The move became a strong possibility after administrator BDO Stoy Hayward was called in to Mr Ross' company Thornycroft 1862 a fortnight ago, just days after Mr Ross was killed in a shooting accident.

The news leaves Case customers in the south in a state of flux, with the second failure of their territory's dealer within four months.

Saville was only appointed to the southern territories after Newton Abbot-based CRMS went into administration in June.

Although Saville is trading in administration, there is the very real prospect that it will not be able to continue in the same form, or with the same number of territories when the firm's affairs are consolidated.

The fact that Thornycroft only bought the firm in July is set to leave debts still outstanding, simply because it hadn't had time to settle them.

One insider warned: 'Saville has had cash f low problems for a number of years and was in search of a buyer for a long while before Thornycroft. If the administrator can find someone to take it as a going concern quickly, they might be able to keep it intact.

'Everyone has faith in the leadership team but often the first thing that administrators do is to reduce the outgoings by mak ing redundancies.'

Case has announced contingency plans for its customers in the Saville territories, with neighbouring dealers on stand-by to offer the full dealer service.

The manufacturer's European vicepresident, George Russell, said: 'We had hoped that Saville could have avoided following their parent company into administration. Unfortunately the directors of Saville decided they had to make that decision.

'While awaiting reports from the administrator, with immediate effect we have implemented an arrangement by which other Case dealers will provide continuity of service for the supply of new machines, parts, service and engineering support. Existing warranties will, of course, be honoured.'

Insiders said that Case had devised an action plan for such contingencies following the dem ise of CRMS.

One said: 'Before CRMS they didn't have the processes in place and for that one they had to create a plan on the hoof.

'But having created a template for swinging other dealers into action, they obviously didn't expect it to have to put it into practice quite so soon. The upside of it being so soon after CRMS is Case is still talking to people interested in taking on territories.'

The events of the past fortnight have clearly put Case on the back foot, given that it only announced its revised dealer network to replace CRMS last month, with Saville as the new flagship. It has yet to place a dealer for the key London territory.

But Mr Russell was resolute: 'It is our intention to have a highly efficient dealer network covering all areas of the UK as quickly as possible. However, we are not going to be rushed into making decisions.'

It is thought BDO's investigation into Thornycroft will drag in not only Case but also sister company New Holland.