Naughty, naughty: Why I don’t trust phoenix companies

Thinking about writing a post about clients that go bust owing the freelance copywriter money, I thought I’d Google an old offender from the late 1990s – an advertising agency based in Headingley, Leeds, which I freelanced for on a regular basis. Then one day out of the blue they went bust and my invoices went unpaid. For years afterwards I received huge missals from their official receiver, none of which was good news as regards the four-figure sum they owed me. As a sole trader, this hit me hard.

So, in the months and years that followed, I was troubled to see that this particular advertising agency still appeared to be trading. Same address, same colour logo, same name – albeit slightly changed with a bracket or two from what I could see. The lights were on, people were moving around the building conducting business, cars were sitting in the car park…

But I never did get paid. So why did they still appear to be trading?

Today I Googled this particular advertising agency. First, I learned about Phoenix Companies – a company that rises from the ashes of a company that’s gone bust, under slightly different directorship and perhaps with a bracket or two added to the name so it’s not exactly the same as the original. But, essentially, it’s the same company working in the same market sector and, often, from the same address.

Familiar, huh?

Second, I learned that this risen-from-the-ashes advertising agency had indeed gone bust.

Only it wasn’t in the late 1990s, it was in 2013. And creditors were left unpaid.

So they’d done it twice.

But I was even more surprised and troubled to see that, sitting on Google above all the links to information about this advertising agency ceasing trading, was the agency’s website.

So I clicked onto it. Initially it was difficult to tell whether this was a current website or, perhaps, the website of the liquidated advertising agency that, for some reason, was still live on the Net.

Then I clicked onto their blog – a telling feature. And what do you think I found? Yes, it was bang up to date!

Why would they still be blogging if the company had gone bust two years ago?

The simple fact is that they wouldn’t. So they must be trading. Again.

As for the name? Yes, it’s the same old familiar name, but oh so slightly different from last time round.

And the time before.

Naughty, naughty.

Should I name-and-shame?

But which name would I use?

X—— Y—- Z—?

(XYZ) X—— Y—- Z—?


I should name-and-shame.

But for some unknown reason I’m not going to.

Maybe it’s my ethical upbringing.


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