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Mind the Rocks

Andy Vandervell


Mind the Rocks

What of consumer confidence now? Last year the UK computing industry was struck by instability at Worcestershire based PC manufacturer Evesham, while this week well known notebook seller Rock Direct went into administration. Unlike Evesham, where whispers of difficulty had been developing for a while, the announcement of Rock's problems came as something of a surprise. Known particularly for prompt launches of new mobile gaming hardware, as with the X770 T7800-8800 we reviewed not all that long ago, it had developed a strong reputation for excellent after sales support.

So, what happened? Currently we only have the official story go by, which goes as follows:

"The failure of Rock is partly attributed to the cash flow difficulties faced as a result of stock misappropriation by a former employee. This led to suppliers reducing credit limits, further adversely impacting upon cash flows. As a result of the recent difficulties faced by Rock in obtaining regular supplies of key components, Rock had effectively ceased to trade prior to the Administrators appointment". - {our emphasis}

This stock misappropriation, as reported by the Kenilworth Weekly News, was performed by now former head of sales, Paul Bicknell. He had joined the company at the age of 16 and worked his way up through the ranks and became involved in the sale of components to a spare parts company called CFA Trading. This, it seems, proved too much of a temptation for the man, who began siphoning off money through the accounts of local forecourt garages.

The money he stole, reportedly £220,000 in total, was used on hiring expensive cars and online gambling. His solicitor has been quoted as saying that Bicknell was living in "something of a fantasy and unreal world", making up stories to his colleagues about how he had been adopted and that his real mother lived in the US, was an heiress, exceedingly rich and was sending him money to fund his increasingly opulent lifestyle. Shortly after leaving the company, Bicknell also broke into the company's warehouse and stole over £10,000 worth of equipment.

This is clearly a tragic story, but it seems unlikely to us at least that it's the whole one. As Rock's own statement says, this incident only "partly attributed" to its cash flow difficulties, which would suggest that it could have been the straw that broke the camel's back, rather than the sole cause. Whatever the full story, it's another bad news day for the PC building industry in the UK. Moreover even if, as some have suggested, rival firm Novatech buys the stronger Rock brand, it probably won't be of much comfort to the current and former employees of the stricken company.

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