Lifestyle website The Pool has entered administration, leaving 24 journalists jobless and without their final paycheck, with many freelancers out of pocket.
Staff were told that the four-year-old online magazine is now insolvent with administrators to be appointed, the Guardian has reported. The news follows reports of crisis talks and of mounting revelations on social media of freelance writers who had not been paid. A winding up petition (a legal action taken by creditors to pursue money owed) was published in the London Gazette in the early hours of Friday (1st February).
Radio broadcaster Lauren Laverne and magazine editor Sam Baker co-founded the site in 2015 but left the company’s board last year, with Baker staying on as chief content officer until earlier this month.
Staff at the London-based office were informed the company was going to administration on Thursday evening (31st January). Employees have reportedly not been paid January’s wages and will now have to see what can be recovered by administrators to pay their salaries.
Dominic Hill, the company’s only remaining director, reportedly told staff: “As a director and shareholder, I have a duty to do this as the business is now insolvent and we have exhausted all rescue ideas/plans.”
He told staff the administrator would “explain the process which will include how you can claim for January’s salary and any redundancy payment you may be due”.
He added: “Like you, I loved The Pool and what it stood for, and I’m sorry that I let you and it down. Thank you so much for working and loving The Pool right to the last minute. It says a lot about a company/brand/business that even when the team know the business is out of the time, they continue giving it their all!!”
Many writers are believed to be owed thousands by the site - the news came on the same day as HMRC’s self assessment deadline meaning many freelancers paid a hefty tax bill on the same day as discovering they might not ever get the money owed them by The Pool. Journalist and author Stuart Heritage, whose book with Profile was recently announced, called the timing “horrific".
In a lengthy Twitter thread, the site’s editor Cate Sevilla shared her frustration over the situation, only six months after joining the company.
“I don't really know what to say. I'm absolutely gutted… We've had so many kind messages from contributors and readers…We've also been accused of knowing this would happen and commissioning people anyway – this is untrue and we didn't.
“We don't quite know what happens next, we only found out about going into administration this evening, but we will try to keep everyone involved updated.”
Baker tweeted: "Heartbroken this morning. We tried so hard and we failed. What matters now is getting the brilliant team and freelancers paid. If you’re hiring I know some bloody excellent people. Not a single one past or present I wouldn’t give a glowing reference."
The Pool hosted comprehensive book content, created a number of literary competitions and promotions as well as a significant partnership with Pan Macmillan which included the publication of two books.
Pan Mac's Carole Tonkinson, founder and publisher of its Bluebird imprint, was one of many from the publishing trade to mourn the site on Twitter and praise its staff.
“Very sad to hear about @thepooluk going into administration,” Tonkinson said. “I loved the writing and it was the first thing I read each morning. It was a privilege to publish Life Honestly, a collection from the Pool. A heartfelt thank you to all the writers and editors for all you have done.”
Headline’s communication director Georgina Moore tweeted: “Right from the beginning it was so innovative, so exciting, the best female voices. We found so much support for our authors from @SamBaker and her team, so much support for books. I wish it could survive.”
Meanwhile Picador’s publishing director Francesca Main thanked the site's contributors for "all you did to support books and authors.”
"How incredibly sad - I loved so many of the writers at the Pool, who were also brilliantly supportive of several of my books, and I really hope staff & freelancers get their overdue pay," Head of Raven Books Alison Hennessey said of its "incredibly sad" closure.
Meanwhile This Is Going to Hurt author Adam Kay tweeted about how the site featured "great writing from great journalists, and on a personal note,[was] very generous and vocal supporters of my book from the start.”
Many of The Pool’s staff went on to write books including former staffer Caroline O’Donoghue’s gothic debut Promising Young Women (Virago), published last year, and a recently announced two-book deal for Amy Jones with Ebury, one of the 24 employees now without a job.
Literary agency Julia Kingsford has set up a crowdfunding page on gofundme.com to “help The Pool staff and freelancers get paid”, with more than £2,000 raised as the time of writing.
Sevilla and The Pool have been contacted for comment.