Why a typo cost a businessman millions of pounds and seven years of his life

Why a typo cost a businessman millions of pounds and seven years of his life

A businessman lost millions of pounds and seven years of his life when a typo mistakenly signalled his company was going into liquidation.

Philip Davison-Sebry has told of how Companies House wrecked his 134-year-old firm, Taylor & Sons with a typo.

The government was ordered to pay out £9million over the blunder which saw his Welsh engineering firm confused with Manchester’s Taylor and Son Ltd.

Companies House mistakenly said his engineering firm was being wound up and had gone into liquidation.

The extra letter ‘s’ cost him his family business and left him embroiled in a legal battle for years as he sought compensation.

Speaking to Wales Online, he said: “We had a thriving business and a full order book.

“We were on course for making £45m that year.”

The firm employed more than 250 people, had three factories and had just secured a £3million contract with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution before it all came crashing down.

Philip was in the Maldives celebrating his wife’s 50th birthday when his biggest client rang him looking for a meeting.

When he told them he way away, they were baffled saying: "What are you doing away at a time like this? Your company is in liquidation!”

He didn’t know what had happened but insisted his company wasn’t going under – but it soon would be.

Philip said: “Companies House told the whole world that we were being wound up by HMRC.

“We were making £30-40 million a year. People were queueing up outside the factories.

“We kept telling people that we were not in liquidation but the credit references agencies denied it. To be fair the suppliers and the customers didn’t make the error – it was Companies House.

“I felt physically sick. Back at the business the phones were ringing out, it was like Armageddon. Everyone wanted to be paid.

"People were queuing up for money. Equipment was being taken off site I felt like I had been kicked in the b******s.”

The error ended up becoming reality when credit lines were called in, orders were cancelled and Tata Steel – their biggest client – abandoned ship – taking their £400,000 per month contract with them.

Administrators were called in and Philip was anxious about his livelihood as well as that of his 250 loyal staff.

Many of them managed to keep their jobs when he sold to competitors.

“I haven’t got the businesses back that I lost because they were sold out from under me,” he said.

“The businesses were sold to competitors. I assisted the administrator and not many people lost their jobs.

“When it all happened I was so worried about staff and my family – my daughter and wife work in the business.

"Afterwards I was so down and so gutted that I was not in a good state. Looking back I should have started it back up the next day but I wasn’t in the mental state to do it.

“I could hardly sleep for two years – I would wake up in a sweat.”

Philip then decided to take Companies House to court – eventually winning £9million in compensation for their error after a six-year legal battle.

He said: “Fighting them with the help from family and friends helped me refocus. We spent all our money fighting it and it showed we had a strong marriage.

“We couldn’t have done it without the support from family and friends – the legal bills were huge.

“I just started up again with a little business and a member of staff who had been with me for nearly 30 years.

“When we got the call to say we had won we had to wait for seven days before we could tell everyone. Then we had all the family and friends round for drinks.

“It is seven years of my life I will never get back. During that time it is never out of your mind. Even now I still wake up thinking about it.”

Through hard work and the support of his friends and family Philip now runs a number of other businesses though not in the same industry.

He said: “We are now trading with new companies and we are starting to grow them and I have some of my old staff with me.

“We have Taylor Protected Coating which does industrial painting. As well as Taylor Decorating and the  Thermal Compaction Group .”

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