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Comet’s might-have-been saviour 'not paying biz debts'

Lewisons Wholesale's Clive Coombes facing 8 CCJs totalling over £125k

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Clive Coombes, the man who tried and failed to save the Comet brand, appears to be struggling to keep his existing business Lewisons Wholesale (LS) afloat, with supplier debts now mounting.

The electronics retailing entrepreneur had planned to buy the name of the once mighty High Street giant that went under in late 2012, but could not agree terms with insolvency practitioner Deloitte.

Coombes then revealed last summer he was to merge two companies under his control, Meridian Wholesale Ltd - rebranded as Lewisons Wholesale months later - and Comet Electrical Distributors to form Meridian Comet. The business was set to open 80 stores over two years.

However, multiple sources tell us those plans lay in tatters, with just one LS store in operation at the Southampton-based HQ, compounded by serious concerns about the company’s future.

According to Experian, eight County Court Judgements against the business totalling more than £125,000 remain outstanding. The first was filed in June with the latest recorded on 18 November.

“Nobody is answering the phone to us at Lewisons Wholesale, [and] it is not paying its bills,” said one supplier who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The supplier told us Lewisons’ management went on a tour of duty last year to meet vendors and distributors to discuss ambitions to take the retail market by storm, although there's a marked contrast between the "brave words and the miserable performance", he said.

According to the last abbreviated filing at Companies House for fiscal 2013 ended August, Lewisons Wholesale had a total net worth of £1.135m, and trade debtors of £709,000.

Coombes is linked to 20 companies by virtue of officer appointments, and seven of these have been dissolved. He is director at Lewisons Electrical Retailers Ltd, which claims to have a share capital of £150m.

The other director at Lewisons Wholesale, Stuart Mills, who was only appointed in September last year, had his contract terminated in July, the company information repository confirmed.

Lewisons Wholesale does not have its own website and calls to the business went unanswered.

We have emailed Coombes for comment and will update the article if/when he replies. ®

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