<P>A lack of sufficient cash to pay wages has prompted the administrators of TVR sportscar maker Blackpool Automotive to make the remaining 245 workers redundant.

TVR laid off 158 workers last November. Announcing their appointment which took place just before Christmas, administrators PKF (UK) said the remaining head count was around 250. Local reports last week said the factory had been shuttered with just a security guard on the gate.

In a statement released at the weekend, PKF partners and joint administrators Kerry Bailey, Matthew Gibson and Philip Long said: “On behalf of Blackpool Automotive Limited, the workforce was made redundant on Thursday as the administrators had not been [given sufficient] funds to meet the wages.

“Making employees redundant will allow them to receive benefits and claim under insurance policies, and will also trigger the possibility of claims to the Redundancy Payments Office.

“We have endeavoured to keep the workforce and union informed as much as possible since our appointment and will continue to do so.”

The administrators said they remain optimistic that a purchaser will be found for the business and assets of the company.

“We are seeking to clarify the ownership of certain assets.”

At the weekend, the UK-based Sunday Times newspaper said Russian businessman Nikolai Smolenski – who had bought TVR from Peter Wheeler in 2004 – had subsequently split up the company into a number of different businesses and only part of the group, the manufacturing arm newly named Blackpool Automotive, was in administration.

The paper said that Smolenski had resigned as a director of Blackpool Automotive on 13 December – less than 10 days before the administrators were called in – and no longer owned the manufacturing arm of the business he had earlier declared he wanted to save.

According to The Sunday Times, company records show that, also on 13 December, TVR’s production director Mike Penny also quit as a director of Blackpool Automotive and both men were replaced by Smolenski’s personal assistant Roger Billinghurst and Angelco Stamenkov, 25, an Austrian national with a home address in Vienna.

The paper added that David Oxley, managing director of TVR Motors, still owned by Smolenski, had said at the weekend that Blackpool Automotive was recently sold. Oxley reportedly would not name the buyer, but confirmed that Smolenski was no longer the owner.

Another part of the business, TVR Power, which supplies parts and spares, had previously gone to a management buyout, the Sunday Times added.

The paper said the sale of the two businesses means that the remaining parent company, TVR Motors, is left with the TVR brand and intellectual property rights.

“TVRs will continue to be produced,” Oxley told the Sunday Times, “but not in Blackpool.” He reportedly would not comment on speculation that production will be moved to the Bertone plant in Italy.

The Sunday Times said Smolenski’s sale of the TVR production arm just before it went into administration apparently achieves his aim of holding on to the name and moving production offshore without the problems and cost of closing down the Blackpool plant.

However, according to the report, there are strict UK rules covering the disposal of businesses and a loss-making offshoot cannot be simply off-loaded in the expectation that it will promptly go under – the buyer has to give an undertaking that the acquired business can meet its liabilities.

In addition, the Transport & General Workers’ Union is putting pressure on Smolenski to cover the the full cost of redundancy and holiday pay owed to the staff who remained when Blackpool Automotive went under – thought to total as much as GBP3m.

The Sunday Times added that Smolenski was reckoned to have shelled out almost £30m on TVR, including the original 2004 purchase price paid to Wheeler. The paper added that the bill is now reckoned to be approaching GBP40m and meeting redundancy costs will push that even higher.

TVR calls in administrators