David French spells out the way forward for BHETA merger

BHETA chief executive David French says he believes there is a way to resolve the structural difficulty impeding the association’s proposed merger with the British Jewellery Giftware and Finishing Federation.

David French spells out the way forward for BHETA merger

Speaking to HousewaresLive.net yesterday, he revealed that he has proposed to the BJGFF board that BHETA should forego its share-out from the BJGFF’s central pot – providing the BHETA joining fee is ring-fenced.

This refers to the fact that BJGFF is owned by its members, and its Articles of Association state that in the event of the federation being wound up, its assets would be distributed equally among its members.

French’s proposal is that BHETA members would give up their right to this in return for the guarantee that BHETA’s joining fee – currently estimated at £1.2m – would be ring-fenced, and returned should BHETA subsequently decide to leave the federation.

“The BHETA position is that we’re joining the federation, not the other trade associations within the federation,” he said. “Our lawyers say that it’s possible to change the BJGFF Articles to accommodate BHETA, and I’m due to meet David Metcalfe [BJGFF president] again on January 29.

“In principle, BJGFF is willing to amend Article 12. So far so good – it’s the start of the process, not the end of it, and there’s a lot more work to do before we have a proposal that members can vote on.”

Asked about the suggestion of mortgaging Brooke House, BHETA’s former office in Northampton, to raise the joining fee, French said: “Mortgaging Brooke House is not something I would like to do.” But he added that he was confident that the value of BHETA’s investment portfolio would grow to the level required to pay the joining fee by the time the fee falls due.

He expressed satisfaction with the BHETA members’ meeting on January 14. “I felt the meeting went very well,” he said. “I was very pleased with the way the presentation went, and more than pleased with the attendance.”

Asked about the suggestion of a further members’ meeting during the Spring Fair, he said: “There’s a will as far as we’re concerned – we would like to have room from mid-day to 3pm on the Tuesday, so members can come along and ask questions.” He said that the Spring Fair organisers had been approached to find a suitable room at the NEC.

And would the proposed further EGM at the end of March go ahead as well? “I believe it should,” French said.

However, he is scheduled to step down as CEO at the 2010 AGM, and there are no plans to replace him – so who will be responsible for managing the merger process to a conclusion?

“I hope that by the AGM the process is all but complete,” he said. “There could be an arrangement with ‘AN Other’ to complete the process. But BHETA is owned by its members, for the benefit of its members, and the members decide. It depends on the EGM – if the members vote no, the board will have to reconsider.

“At the first AGM I addressed as CEO, I said I would do the job for three years, and I have no wish to go beyond the three-year period. I knew the task was going to require some difficult and unpopular decisions. But I said I wouldn’t leave the association in a mess, and would work to finish the restructuring. We’re in a much better position now than we were then.”

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