In a statement released to the members of the Green Pastures Church in Ballymena, former owner of WrightBus and pastor of the church Jeff Wright, has said he is ‘saddened and concerned’ that the church and his family are ‘subject of unfair and misinformed speculation’ from the media.
The statement was issued ahead of tonight BBC Spotlight programme, who have carried out an extensive investigation into the finances of WrightBus and what led to its closure.
Writing to the Church members, Jeff Wright said:
“Dear Church Family, You may have seen that BBC are planning to air a Spotlight programme into Wrightbus this evening.
“As your pastor, it is with sadness and concern that once again this church, my family and I are the subject of unfair and misinformed speculation by elements of the media and others.
“Over the past number of weeks, both I and the church had been contacted by the BBC with a long list of questions, insinuations and unfounded accusations.
“We sought and followed legal and professional PR advice and had hoped that our responses to the BBC would encourage them to not continue with their publication of sensationalised rumour, innuendo and factually incorrect information. Unfortunately it seems they have chosen to proceed.”Jeff Wright
Addressing the what Mr Wright called ‘false stories’ he continued:
“As a valued member of our congregation, I want to take this opportunity to share with you some facts to clear up any false stories about my own or the companies’ financial affairs.
“A view is being peddled that Cornerstone Group Limited was wrongly paid dividends by Wrights Group and that Cornerstone wrongly used these monies to make donations towards the development of our church – that could not be further from the truth and is extremely hurtful and damaging.
“As the companies prospered, any dividends legitimately paid to Cornerstone by Wrights Group were used towards supporting the work and development of Green Pastures and other Evangelical projects.
“While Cornerstone could have donated to any number of other charities, or distributed its profits to its shareholders for them to spend on themselves, the Company was set up with the specific objective to support, pursue and carry out Christian and Evangelical projects.
“It has always been Cornerstone’s intention, openly expressed, that evangelical work, including Green Pastures Church, would benefit.”Jeff Wright
The church pastor went on to defend how he had acted and the decisions he made, saying:
“I have at all times acted appropriately, ethically and within the law. Both the Wrights Group and Cornerstone’s accounts are publicly available and from these you can clearly see that Wrights Group not only paid dividends to Cornerstone from its distributable profits, while retaining significant profits after dividends were paid. All dividends were paid with the knowledge of Bank of Ireland and Invest NI and were made at a time when all companies were balance sheet solvent.
“There is no mystery as to how, as a family, we were able to support our Christian commitment to the development of the Church, but only when the companies had sufficient profits to do so.
“A number of factors resulted in Deloitte being brought in to advise the Wright group in April last year, including: a sudden and unexpected drop off in bus orders; the failure of an expected significant order to materialise; and the difficult process of moving to a new manufacturing plant.
“My family and I have cooperated fully with Deloitte since this time, including after the Wrights Group entered into administration in September 2019. No dividends were paid to Cornerstone when there were insufficient profits to do so, including in 2019.
“The disappointment and sadness at our family firm’s collapse was shocking and deeply felt by all of us.
“I recognise the anger that the collapse has generated, but I am deeply concerned about the way this has been personalised. The consequences of the myths about our financial dealings became so serious that, according to the Police in September, our personal security was at risk – a list of our family’s car registration numbers was discovered in sinister circumstances.
” once again want to say how sorry I am to you my church family for the abuse and difficultly that you and your families are facing because of this situation. We reject any insinuation of wrongdoing and trust that we will be fully vindicated when all matters are properly concluded.”Jeff Wright
To finish Jeff thanked the Church for their support and finished by addressing the fallout that he expected from tonights programme.
“I want to say a deep and personal thank you on behalf of the Wright family and myself for your unwavering support and continued belief in our honesty and integrity.
“Luke Ch.6 vs.27-46 are hard words to digest at times like this. It is one of the most difficult assignments that Jesus gives us. Believe me – it’s so easy to want to fight our enemies – especially when there may well be much social media fall-out from this programme. I would encourage you to avoid getting involved in arguments and debates online or in person – because our calling is not to fight. My calling was to “feed My lambs and tend My sheep” and by His grace I intend to finish that assignment and preach the Gospel.
“A good tree is known by its fruit; let’s continue to bear good fruit for Him who loves us and gave Himself for us.”Jeff Wright