EXCLUSIVE: Unitech rescues Crosbys from administration

Crosbys Catering Equipment offices
Crosbys has been bought out of administration by the Unitech Group.

Unitech Group Investment Fund has supported the purchase of the trade and assets of Newcastle-based Bob Crosby Agencies from administrators RSM Restructuring Advisory.

The deal brings a conclusion to a situation that has been developing for almost two weeks, when it emerged that Crosbys had notified suppliers it was facing cashflow challenges and approached RSM for support with safeguarding the future of the business.

Bob Crosby Agencies, trading as Crosbys, was established in 1990 and has grown to be one of the largest independent suppliers of catering equipment and chemicals in the North East with a turnover of £8m.

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The new company, which began trading on 6 April 2018, is named Crosbys Catering Supplies. However, the project side of the business will be incorporated into sister Unitech Group distributor ScoMac Catering Equipment, which is based in Livingston with offices in Cambridge and Leeds, headed by Steve Shepherd, operations director.

Unitech reported that the buyout will safeguard 38 local jobs.

However, Catering Insight understands that debts accrued by Bob Crosby Agencies will not be taken on by the new entity. Regional manufacturer representatives have reported monies owed stretching into tens of thousands of pounds.

Steve Ross and Matt Higgins of RSM Restructuring Advisory were appointed Joint Administrators of Crosbys on 5 April 2018. Following the appointment of administrators, the business was successfully sold to Unitech Group Investment Fund.

Crosbys Catering Supplies will be supported by Unitech’s group finance director Mark Street and the full Crosbys team, including Roger and Ben Crosby, who are the sons of founder Bob Crosby.

Street said: “Crosbys has an exciting future with the ongoing financial support of The Unitech Group Investment Fund. They will continue to offer superb service delivering light equipment, chemicals, disposables, crockery and cooking equipment with an increased offering across the North East – maintaining national coverage with local service.”

RSM’s Higgins added: “The sale to Unitech is an excellent result which not only saves 38 local jobs but ensures continuity of service for its loyal customers and safeguards a well-known, established North East business. We wish them every success under the stewardship of Unitech.”

Meanwhile, Crosbys’ non-executive chairman, Joe Docherty, departed his role last month, according to a filing on the Companies House website. He has owned 30% of the business’ shares since he joined the board in 2014.

Docherty has also been chief executive of Newcastle College Group since 2013 and is a trustee of the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, a charity which supports education, arts, environment and social change.

Tags : administrationbuyoutcrosbysdealerdistributorinsolvencyunitech
Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls


  1. Unbelievable! So while Roger and Ben hold onto their jobs, there are countless companies out there that they owe absolutely Thousands to, that will probably never be paid! With any luck suppliers will see sense and refuse to give them accounts.

    1. The debt actually runs into hundreds of thousands, and that’s fact, it might yet take some smaller local suppliers to the wall, they knew for months and still kept buying knowing they could not pay, is that legal to trade insolvent?

  2. All suppliers done out of tens of thousands, Crosbys had grown to be one of the largest independent suppliers of catering equipment and chemicals in the North East with a turnover of £8m but not making any profits thus in administration, is that not a contradiction itself.

    sad state of industry & UK law when its up and trading again same day new owners same senior staff ( former co directors) who shafted the suppliers but they will get accounts again. GREED!

  3. Thanks to Roger and Ben us smaller companies are shafted yet those two GREEDY selfish men or are they men or just cowards can just carry on as normal. Thanks for nothing it’s me who has to explain to my wife and family that I am skint.

  4. Sick of these situations and Unitech involvement, Don’t offer any trading facilities what else can we do !!

  5. Unitech are not in the wrong , they just saw an opportunity to expand. Why have a go at them?

    1. Agreed it’s UK law that’s wrong to bump the creditors and keep the plonkers who did the dirty on suppliers as senior staff?
      Saves 38 jobs what about the jobs lost at companies they bumped?

  6. Unitech set up a company in December with the intention of using it to take over Crosbys. Crosbys then traded for three months whilst knowing this was happening thereby jettisoning a load of debt from suppliers and no doubt HMRC (which hits everyone). They chased up all monies owed by customers but left all their loyal suppliers in a horrible mess. How can this be legal?!! Its a loophole that needs closing and Unitech have used this to their advantage and not for the first time (Francis Catering) DO NOT WORK FOR THIS COMPANY!!

  7. This is a joke, Crosby family and Docherty, hang your head in shame . Disgusting, They have known about this for sometime and still too full advantage of local companies…

  8. Why don’t the Crosbys try selling their prestigious recent awards trophies to pay some of their debts?
    Crosbys, Newcastle

    Wh North East Fastest 50 2016 revealed
    28th September 2016
    Crosbys Kitchen Equipment, established in 1990, is a supplier to the restaurant, bar and catering industry. The company, which was also listed in the 2015 Fastest 50, specialises in supplying food preparation and food presentation equipment and also stocks a range of glassware, barware and chefs clothing, BUT NOT PAYING ITS SUPPLIERS.

    1. Good point, the award and article was late November 2017 and Roger Crosby thought it appropriate to mention when interviewed “we’ve deserved it this year”

  9. At the very least they should both be unemployed! I bet they are not worrying about how they are gonna pay their Mortgage!! While the bank has it’s fist out!!

    Unitech should be ashamed of themselves, they could have sorted out the small local businesses. I guess there’s no morals in business?

  10. It will happen over and over again I’m sure. The issue I have is that for some reason Unitech decide, in most cases, to retain the ex directors and position them as senior managers. Its like they go out of their way to rub people’s noses in it and I don’t know how the individuals have the nerve to stick around.

    I’m sure nobody at Crosby’s or Francis wanted to enter into administration but they must have been overtrading and struggling to pay suppliers for many many months so it should come as no surprise. I for one hope that the ex directors of both companies are investigated and that the slightest evidence of wrongdoing results in them being struck off permanently and / or found to he personally liable.

  11. Yet somehow Crosbys and the NCG managed to find the money to sponser the Great North Menu Challenge 2018, even knowing the financal position of Crosbys:

    Maybe I am missing something here, but not only were they having cashflow issues to the extent that the primary shareholder stepped away to protect himself, but they were actively peeing their money up the wall to sponser a competition.

    Giving away winners prizes too (although they were probably freebies from one of their suppliers, but if they did have to pay, they probably wont be paying for them now!).

    As some other users have said, the new company will still get access to all of their old suppliers that they have just taken to the cleaners, still get wined and dined, still laugh with them and shake their hand, the weasles!. Those suppliers should refuse to give them credit and allow the customers to find more reputable distributors, there are plenty out there!

    Hopefully one day, customers will check the credit ratings of their suppliers and be a bit more particular on who they choose to give their money to…

    My thoughts of course go out to the little guys who will be left with their own messes to fix, some will no doubt be unable to, and I bet Unitech will not step in to help them.

    Rant over!

    1. Well said. I’m sure ‘the little guys ‘ will be looking at expanding so they can hopefully move away from them and I dont think credit will be handed out so easily to them in future. I think this article and it’s views should be shared right across social media sites.

      1. They are part of the “HUGE” Unitech empire now, many SUPPLIERS will bow down to their perceived “MIGHT” and give them an account without question or fear losing their existing business from ScoMac.

      2. As they are part of the ALL POWERFULL big spending group now they will be given accounts by suppliers for fear of losing the business they get from the Group currently.

  12. Disgusting. Jobs for the boys. How these people can hold their head up is beyond me. 38 jobs created but many more lost because of small businesses being shafted. I wonder if when the Crosby scum come back to earth if they’ll realise that no one wants to do business with them. Shame on them.

  13. Crosbys, Unitech and Administrators all get their cut, so they are not giving a fig about any suppliers being owed thousands Luvly Jubly, Loadsamoney buy stuff don’t pay for it simple concept. Beep beep, who’s on Unitech’s radar.

  14. About time catering insight did and article giving the version of events for the people who will suffer from this stitch up instead of giving them awards and writing how wonderful they are, let the industry know how many have lost jobs and possibly homes because of these clowns, its been coming a long time you cant trade at non existent profit levels and expect to survive, the fact that they seem to walk away with impunity is staggering lets at least let the customer base know the truth so they can decide if they want to trade with people with no morals

  15. I heard they got a better offer from someone else which would have helped all of us being shafted but Roger and Ben wanted to look after themselves first. Can that be checked? Still taking moneys off people the day before the went under, not sure it’s evn legall? I will not be doing business with them again

    1. Unfortunately it isn’t illegal for unscrupulous people to take money from honest people, even though they know the company is a financial basket case and about to go bust.

  16. Sadly the same old manufacturers support these crooks, every time one goes you see the usual list of creditors Lincat, Fosters, Rational, Falcon, Williams, First Choice, , etc.. and every time these same old manufacturers give the “NEW” company credit and put them up for awards and hospitality . For too long this trade has been self appreciating of the same old school boy network inter changing jobs with each other, voting each other for awards. strange don’t you think how its always the same winners and the same group on CEDA/CESA who get the jobs….. just saying not than I’m cynical

    Oh and just as a foot note its odd don’t you think that Unitech would set up a new business in Crosby’s name just before Christmas well in advance of them going pop. Also seems odd how Unitech keep being the company that’s buying all these failing businesses. This whole trade is starting to get a really rotten feel about it.

    1. Completely agree with all your comments about our industry, sad and frustrating as it is. The CEDA GP awards especially have annoyed me for years for the reason you point out, its a joke but thankfully it has little if any credibility these days.

    2. Unitech set up a company called UNITECH INDUSTRIAL WASHERS LIMITED in December 2017. The name wasn’t changed to Crosbies until 6 April 2018.

  17. About time the b*llsh*t stopped – awards for just existing – but don’t expect it to stop anytime soon.

    Anybody read about how wonderful (the now re-branded) Hotelympia was? Not sure why you would need to “re-brand” if everything is great?

    Apparently Commercial Kitchen is going to be brilliant …. not sure how it can be when Hotelympia has done the job?

    Meanwhile the restaurant chains suffer greater difficulty by the day, shutting branches all over causing a flood of little used equipment on to the market at fire-sale prices. Everything is not wonderful despite the b*llsh*t!

  18. Unitech set up “CROSBYS CATERING SUPPLIES LTD” on 22nd December 2017. They must of been well aware of the situation at that point.

    1. To be fair to Unitech here they didn’t set up Crosbys in December, companies house shows they set up a co as :

      they changed it on 06 Apr 2018 to Crosby’s, as someone else suggested they had it ready to swoop for the next Co to flounder on the rocks.

    2. Unitech set up a company called UNITECH INDUSTRIAL WASHERS LIMITED in December 2017. The name wasn’t changed to Crosbies until 6 April 2018.

  19. I know the Crosby guys and I have a lot of time for their business and them. The biggest problem for firms like this are the customer base, restaurants, bars & hotels use catering firms like a bank, expecting them to wait 50 or 60 days for payment, yet they are paying on the day from their customers. Yet the second a supplier puts a restaurants account on stop they kick off about “how much money I spend” , then they get told “well i’ll go to Nisbets” so maybe if restaurants, bars, hotels paid their bills on time them then brands like Crosbys would of been in a stronger position.

    1. If you can’t get paid don’t do it – SIMPLE

      If that means reducing the size of your business do it

      Takes a lot of bottle but you will sleep better

      1. James, so you are saying that it was their customers fault ? Not a mix of bad management and ill-conceived business practices put in place by the directors at Crosbys.

        To lay blame for a business failure with the customers is to be frank completely ridiculous.

        1. in this day and age the end user is getting worse and worse at paying and catering equipment firms are backing into a corner. its not the only reason but in my experience restaurants and bar want the goods next day but rarely have the respect to pay bills on time. I say only 5 or 10% pay within 35days. So there needs to be a shift its the attitudes of paying suppliers. thats why I dump customers that dont pay on time as thy are worth your time of skills

          1. Yes, but if they are doing the big, prestigious jobs at 5% margin to look good, they still won’t make enough money to pay their staff and their bills! Big egos, small margins, recipe for disaster.

  20. Roger Crosby has a shocking attitude. Him and Ben have no idea how to run a company or treat their staff. How can the new company succeed after they have ran the old one into the ground as they are rubbish at management. Also ripping suppliers off when they knew what was happening. I won’t be dealing with this company again. They should ashamed.

  21. Whoever James is wants to wind his neck in. Try being in my shoes I’ve been ripped off by a scheming pair of Del Boys.

    1. Same reply to you as James:

      If you can’t get paid don’t do it – SIMPLE

      If that means reducing the size of your business do it

      Takes a lot of bottle but you will sleep better
      We have had to do it in the face of Nisbets and their “dealers” (, etc. over the last years – things have not been comfortable but as yet we have not succumbed.

  22. Lots of Anon and made up name comments all very brave! The worst part for us at LLK is that we considered ourselves to be a key supplier however unlike others we didn’t get the “Memo” about their financial difficulties. If it wasn’t for one of our friendly competitors letting us know we would have been in an even worse position that we find ourselves in. It’s bad enough but could have been alot worse. Crosby’s were trading with us as normal and sending orders over knowing full well they were having difficulties and that they did not have the ability to pay us. We are an SME trying to get on our feet. They should have had the decency to send us the email they sent to others to give us the chance to reduce our loses. That’s what really hurts!

    1. They did it to all suppliers the best thing is they wouldn’t let suppliers in before they went bust to collect their goods that they had not been paid for that’s the part that hurts they knew they was going to rip all the suppliers of the whole thing stinks

  23. James, that was a rather silly immature question to ask, nobody in business expects to get mugged off when trading with others, for sure a business can run into difficulties for various reasons and some genuinely cease trading, this case, along with the others, the companies concerned have traded/obtained goods/services when the people running them have known that they were in trouble, simple maths really, if you are spending more than you have coming in then you are going to be in trouble, and spending more does include taking money out of a struggling company and hiding it (there are many ways to do this) so that you have a nice little nest egg for when the inevitable happens, for a company to keep trading when it knows it’s going to pop is bent in my eyes.

  24. Yes we are together with a number of other suppliers an unsuspecting victim in this underhand catastrophe. The worst thing is the partners BEN AND ROGER knew what was happening and continued to place orders knowing that they had no intention of paying us EVEN WHEN THEY WERE PAID FOR ALL WORKS COMPLETED!!! they had the audacity of sending a Text message saying how sorry they were and hoped we could continue to do business in the future. Are they completely stupid. As a result of their underhand business practices the staff who have been made redundant will be most grateful for a payment out of the monies they have collected as a result of our work.

    Well you know the old saying we’re all waiting,

    1. Hi Jackie we didn’t get a text or a phone call as promised so I guess they were not sorry for LLK we are just another vicrim just like we didn’t get the email to say there were in trouble so continue don’t to supply them like mugs!

  25. Well said Linda Lewis and Nick Brandrick for naming yourselves. If someone has something to say, say it but do have the strength of character to include your name.
    Clare Nicholls, I think we need to challenge you to find a way to encourage contributors to include their names. At the moment, those ANON comments could just be all the same person – doubtful probably, but could be.

    1. Hi Steve, I can assure you that all of the anonymous comments are not from the same person – I can see the IP addresses and emails.

      As much as you may disagree on allowing unnamed comments on here, it’s important that this facility is available if for whatever reason a contributor doesn’t feel they can reveal their identity. We reserve the right to delete any comments we feel contravene any libel laws however.

  26. So says Steve Loughton of the Ceda/Cesa Gang. The reason people don’t identify themselves is because they are NOT part of the “IN” gang and feel they will be punished by the same old gang members, you know the ones who vote for each other at awards, the ones who congratulate each other here on the most trivial of achievements! the ones who hand over the gold chains and chalices of office at Ceda/Cesa to each other the same old ones who fly the catering Insight flag and guess what the same old ones who keep giving these crooks another credit line after they have shafted the hard working ones who don’t attend Ceda/Cesa workshops, gold days and Beano’s in general
    For way too long this trade has been in the hands of the same few players passing it amongst themselves where is the new blood where are the women and where are the morals and ethics??? being supressed that’s for sure.
    PS Its nothing personal Steve but something has to change before this trades totally implodes

  27. Hi all Anons just for the record we at LLK are not members of CEDA or CESA we have no need to be scared of speaking up. None of these organisations are the MOB. We have a right to free speech in this country we all have an opinion!

  28. P’S Also I was a female last time I checked and I don’t feel superseded in the industry I never get the whole “gender” thing!

  29. Meant supressed! Just fed up of being shafted by these lovely Company Directors of failing Companies.

  30. The new company was registered on 22 December 2017 which looks to me as if it was planned. If that the case why don’t all suppliers that have been affected group together and go for them with a top barrister. This can’t be allowed to happen.

  31. Hi All,
    Neither Crosby’s nor Unitech have done anything illegal. Immoral ? well that’s a maybe.
    Whether you’re an independent manufacturer / supplier or a disgruntled customer please don’t hide under the “Anon” bush.
    I’ve been ploughing my own furrow now for 7 years supplying everything the big boys can and paying my bills (Despite being chased up and down the Tyne Valley by the Crosby reps determined to hoover up the final £40 from every last customer)
    The truth is that all suppliers with their champagne showrooms are running on ginger beer profits. We do it to ourselves chasing the turnover.
    If you really want change, Here’s my challenge to clients and suppliers
    Clients – if your project is in over £15k and you genuinely want to save money rather than use the distributor as a free loan – give me a call.
    Manufacturers/ Suppliers – if you want proper representation in the North of England where the system I operate guarantees you being paid – give me a call.
    We’ve all been party to large companies going bust, taking the smaller guys to the wall and leaving the larger manufacturers with horrendous insurance cover.
    If you really want change and you’re serious about your project – call me
    (I tried to paste a picture of a clean broom but the system won’t allow it!!)

    1. Signing a solvency statement in June 2017 and going into administration in April 2018 is very questionable. I don’t know if this is illegal but it must be highly questionable.

  32. I Have a lot of time for Linda Lewis she is a very good business woman and I think some people on here should recognise what a success she is instead of criticising her.
    As for Crosbys,are the same wholesalers going to deal with them again?I bet they do that’s where the problem lies.
    are the warranties for goods supplied in the last year still covered?
    I run a small company Cooltrader and we have always had the same rule.Lower overheads mean higher profits.
    We have never been to a gala night wearing Dickie bows ect but we have always paid our bills and slept at night.

  33. Well to all of you can anyone tell me why Roger Crosby only signed of his accounts on the 19th of march this year with 250grand in the bank.

  34. Total cowboys these boys are! Swanning around Newcastle in their cheap suits like Tyneside glitterati, all the while they’ve got their fist up the back end of the small guys like me! Needless to say we won’t be dealing with them again…

    At least the great train robbers were loveable rogues, there’s nothing to like about the Crosby Clown show!

  35. After reading all the comments on this page today I was going to give the new company a credit account but have chosen not to do so I lost £5600.00 They kept placing orders right up to the day with no intension of making any payments for the goods now that is wrong what really stinks is that Roger & Ben had never at any point told us that they was going into administration the new company just sent our emails saying they had purchased the company from the administrators we didn’t get any notification from the administrators that Crosbys was in administration until after the sale to the new owners.

    I think all suppliers should stick together on this one and not give accounts out looking at the feedback from half of Ben’s & Rogers un happy customers they want be around for long I have also noticed that Crosbys Catering Supplies. However, the project side of the business will be incorporated into sister Unitech Group distributor ScoMac Catering Equipment, This means that any profit from equipment sales is going to be filtered out so how will Crosbys Catering Supplies be able to pay all the 38 workers wages I guess the suppliers will pick that bill up again

  36. I am not quite sure who James is and what planet he is on but if customers are taking a long time to pay you need to put stricter terms in place, I know they are companies out there that proforma end users or certainly get a lot of money up front – and if the company is in trouble there is absolutely no excuse for continuing ordering knowing you are unlikely to be able to pay for the goods. I strongly believe all suppliers should do something about it and stop supplying them!! I hope Ben and Roger sleep well at night

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