A day after they were sealed by Nigerian officials for loan default, some subsidiaries of Silverbird Group reopened for business on Friday afternoon, with apologies to their “viewers, listeners and online subscribers.”
The Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON, on Thursday effected a court order to take possession of Silverbird Galleria Limited, Silverbird Promotions Limited, and Silverbird Showtime Limited which are part of the media group owned by businessman and politician, Ben Murray-Bruce, and his family.
The takeover was necessitated by an alleged failure of the three companies to repay about N11 billion credit they obtained from Union Bank of Nigeria.
AMCON, a federal government-backed agency established to manage delinquent loans of big firms and individuals, said it had purchased all the debts as part of a bailout deal it reached with Union Bank when it was in distress.
The three businesses, with offices in Lagos, Abuja and Port-Harcourt, were emblazoned with red caveats that informed the general public that they had been taken over by the government.
In his reaction to the takeover, Mr. Murray-Bruce said his businesses are going through “tough times.” He sued for calm, saying, “The situation is being resolved and things will be back to normal.”
That much came to pass on Friday, at least in operational context, when Silverbird Television and Rhythm FM, two of the many subsidiaries of the group, announced their return to air.
“The Management of Silverbird Communications Ltd., owners of Rhythm FM and Silverbird TV sincerely apologise (sic) to its numerous viewers, listeners and online subscribers over the disruption of our operations across television, radio and online media.
“This was due to a situation beyond our control. However, we are pleased to inform you that we are back on air on radio, television and on our online platform,” Rhythm 93.7 FM, based in Lagos, said in a statement posted on its Facebook page Friday afternoon.
“We thank you for your patience and understanding at this time.”
PREMIUM TIMES also confirmed that the stations were back on air in and around Lagos on Friday evening.
But Mr. Murray-Bruce and his brothers would not be in charge of running the businesses, said Kunle Adegoke, an attorney working with Muiz Banire, the debt recovery manager overseeing the takeover.
Mr. Adegoke told PREMIUM TIMES on Friday evening that the reopening of the businesses should not come as a surprise to Nigerians. He said they were only repossessed by the authorities but not liquidated.
The lawyer said AMCON would continue to superintend the affairs of the businesses in order to make them more effective and profitable, but added that Mr. Murray-Bruce and his brothers would be carried along in the day-to-day running of the businesses.
“That is true. The purpose of receivership is to ensure the businesses are run consistently and to recover the loan that is outstanding against the three companies,” Mr. Adegoke said. “So, it is to that effect that we directed this afternoon that they should reopen the businesses.”
“That the receiver has taken over the finances of the organisation together with the administrative office. The purpose being that if the essence is to recover the money that is outstanding against these companies, then also the receivables that would come from the businesses should be the fundamental target pursuant to the order of the court.
“So we have directed that the television should go back on air and the radio.
“The essence is not to kill the business but to make it profitable. So that is the situation right now. What we have decided as the receivers is to ensure that the existing management would have to work with us to ensure that things are perfectly run,” Mr. Adegoke said.
Mr. Murray-Bruce’s businesses are only a few of many companies that AMCON has taken over or is in the process of taken over because they defaulted on their loan obligations.
The Bayelsa Senator, however, said he did no wrong in defaulting on his loans.
“There is no shame in taking loan,” he said in a Twitter session.”If I didn’t take loans, I wouldn’t be able to employ 1000 Nigerians.”