Report by Daniel Wilkins for MidweekHerald
The publisher at the centre of a row over the defunct View From series of newspapers, which covered parts of East Devon, has secured backdated pay for former employees.
Duncan Williams told the Herald he has reached an agreement with the insolvency agency for 29 staff from the View From titles to get their wages.
It follows a two-year legal battle after Mr Williams appealed having to assume more than £500,000 worth of debt when he launched a bid to revive the titles.
He said: “As a trade union member myself, I support what the staff have been through.
Mr Williams purchased the View From titles, which included papers covering Sidmouth, Honiton, Axminster, Seaton and Lyme Regis, in January 2018.
He set out to revive the titles, as well as launch an award in honour of George Pulman, who founded the papers in the 1850s.
Mr Williams said: “It wasn’t a capricious act – it was genuinely to do something that would celebrate that heritage.
“But the debts were astronomical – I have been chased by debt collectors for two years.”
He set up a crowdfunding campaign in the hope of attracting investors to help him revive the titles.
In doing so, he needed to give investors a guarantee and took on the liabilities of the company.
This prompted a two-year legal battle, and, despite an appeal, Mr Williams was told by the courts he had assumed more than £500,000 in debt, which included the unpaid staff wages.
Mr Williams told the Herald that securing the agreement for former staff to be paid was a ‘tremendous relief’ to him.
However, this is not the end of the road for Mr Williams, as he is still repaying debts owed to those who contributed to his .
He said the lack of advertising revenue due to the coronavirus made the papers’ relaunch unfeasible.
He added: “The AI digital technology I have developed would have been part of the plan to relaunch, and that still is the intention, but, in the current climate, it would be crazy to pursue this.”