Working for Peter Marshall, editor in chief and publisher of Chef Magazine UK, and never getting paid
This is the story of how we came to work for Peter Marshall and Chef Magazine in the UK and what came out of it. We were commissioned by Peter Marshall to write two articles and to do two photo shoots for Chef Magazine. The articles were published in January 2012. We have still not been paid. Not a penny have we received.
In November 2011 (yes, 2011) we were contacted by Peter Marshall who asked us if we would be willing to do two (or rather four) commissions for him. It was two articles that were to be written, with two accompanying photo shoots, for Chef Magazine, an up-market glossy UK trade magazine for the restaurant trade. Both articles were to be done in Paris where we live. Both articles were planned as “feature” articles for the January 2012 issue of Chef Magazine. Both articles were indeed published in Peter Marshall’s Chef Magazine in January 2012. What seems now a long time ago.
The first article was on Alain Senderens and was for a feature series called “Living Legends” on famous chefs. Alain Senderens is one of the most respected chefs in France and have for many, many years had three stars in the Michelin Red Guide. He runs a top-class restaurant carrying his name. He is indeed a legend in French gastronomy.
The second article was on the chef at the British Ambassador’s residence, James Viaene. James Viaene was just about to retire at the end of 2011 after forty years’ service at the Ambassador’s residence. The article would also feature photography from a photo session with both the chef and His Excellency the ambassador of the United Kingdom, Sir Peter Westmacott and his wife the Ambassadress.
Thus, both commissions were double: writing the feature article text as well as providing the photography for the two articles. So, in essence, four commissions.
The fee that was offered to us was far below the normal journalistic and photographic rates. However, we thought that it was two (four) quite interesting projects and it was also the occasion to work with a magazine that we had never worked with before. It looked (at the time) like a very ambitious and professional magazine.
In the end we agreed on a fee, below normal rates for such work, of 949.50 euro for all four deliveries, two article texts and two photo assignments. Not much considering the amount of work put into it but it sounded fun and interesting, and perhaps it could lead to other things in the future.
Little did we suspect that the 949.50 euro would transform into zero, zilch, nothing. Little did we suspect what “other things” it would lead to. Not very fun things. Like chasing people who never pay their debts.
We have struggled now ever since early 2012 to get paid for these projects but have been paid nothing.
Excuses, excuses, excuses
As is normal, we sent Peter Marshall an invoice when the work was delivered and expected to be paid as agreed. As is normal. When that did not happen we started chasing. And that has now been going on for a long time. Chasing and chasing.
So how does it work? How can someone not pay the journalist / writer and photographer from whom he commissions work for more than one year? (Well, two by the time this is published.)
This is the way it goes, this is the kind of responses we get when we talk to Peter Marshall and ask to be paid. We have made innumerable phone calls. It is usually impossible to get hold of Peter Marshall on the phone. He rarely, if ever, answers his phone during the week. Weekends and evenings seem to be the only option. We have sent email after email. Mostly without responses.
But sometimes we do manage to get a response…
“What? Have you not been paid yet? It must be a mistake”, says Peter Marshall.
“Oh, I am sorry! It must be something in the administration. I am travelling right now but will be back in the office next week. I will make sure that you are paid promptly”, says Peter Marshall.
“What? I thought that had been sorted a long time ago! I’ll see to that you are paid right after the week-end”, says Peter Marshall.
“I will ensure payment will be made tomorrow”, says Peter Marshall (email of 22 May 2012).
“I expect to have funds available shortly, within a few days. I will probably be able to pay you on December 24”, says Peter Marshall.
“Well, we are a bit short of funds right now. I am expecting some payments from people next week. I will pay you as soon as that money arrives”, says Peter Marshall.
“Oh, I can’t pay you just now; I have someone else that I need to pay first. But I will make sure you are paid next week”, says Peter Marshall.
“We are expecting cleared funds in the next few days and will arrange immediate payment as soon as possible. Please accept my apologies for the severe delay in resolving this, I will confirm to you by email once the payment has been processed.” This last was in an email from Olivia White, OliviaW@networklifestyle.com, PA (personal assistant?) to Peter Marshall in an email of January 10, 2013. As you can guess “as soon as possible” has not yet happened.
Continuing operating a business on what grounds?
These latest motivations for not paying are in a way interesting.
It is really irrelevant to us if the debtor has trouble getting paid “on the other side”, by the people that owe him money. Peter Marshall (Chef Magazine etc, see below) has an outstanding debt to us and is responsible for paying it. It is not our concern if his clients do not pay him. Peter Marshall’s payment obligations to us are independent of any claims he may have on others.
Secondly, an operation that contracts with others and incurs expenses but does not have any funds to pay for the expenses would in most cases be considered to be operating on an unsustainable or fraudulent basis. Deliberately contracting with suppliers in the knowledge that there are no funds to pay them is not part of good business practices. If one incurs expenses and is unable to pay, then in most jurisdictions one should technically be in liquidation (or bankruptcy if one prefers that word).
Now, there is of course the possibility that Peter Marshall is trying to delay payment to us, and possibly to others, long enough to be able to close down Chef Magazine in the hope that the outstanding debts will thereby disappear. However, since we have contracted with Peter Marshall, always communication with Peter Marshall through his personal email firstname.lastname@example.org and not with any corporate contact, our outstanding debt, it can be argued, is actually with Peter Marshall and Chef Magazine (or any other structure that Marshall uses) as joint and severally liable.
We have also sent a number of registered mails, both to Chef Magazine / Network Contract Publishing Ltd / Buckingham Book Publishing (Network House, 28 Ball Moor, Celtic Court, Buckingham, MK18 1RQ, http://goo.gl/maps/VhS1S), and to what we have been informed is (was?) Peter Marshall’s private address (1 Goats Head Cottages, Lillingstone Dayrell, Buckingham, MK18 5AF, United Kingdom, +44 7540 78 9191, http://goo.gl/maps/yCQ2g).
We have received no reply on those.
It is interesting to note that since January 2012, when we should have been paid, Peter Marshall has continued to operate Chef Magazine. He has published several new issues. He has hired a new editor. He has contracted with writers and photographers for material in Chef Magazine. I do not know if any of those suppliers have actually been paid of course, but I find it hard to believe that for example a printer would print several issues of a paper without being paid. So from all appearances there is money somewhere.
But from what I have heard said, editorial and journalistic assignments have not been paid.
Peter Marshall is also continuing to travel the world. Last time I managed to get hold of him on the phone he was in Thailand.
So, again, evidently there is money somewhere. But none of it has come our way. Peter Marshall / Chef Magazine has not paid us a penny for the work that he commissioned us to do in November and December 2011.
The unfortunate and sad background, re. my friend John Radford
We originally came into contact with Peter Marshall and Chef Magazine on the recommendation of a friend, John Radford, fellow member of the Circle of Wine Writers in the UK (the British association of wine journalists) and a great wine and food writer and broadcaster. He recommended us to Peter Marshall.
When I spoke to John about our troubles we had with getting paid for our assignment with Chef Magazine he said that unfortunately his experience was the same with Peter Marshall. John only occasionally succeeded in getting paid after repeated nagging and reminders, telephone calls, pleas, emails… with great effort.
John Radford unfortunately and sadly passed away in the autumn of 2012.
The last time I was in contact with John he told me that Chef Magazine / Peter Marshall owed him several thousand pounds for journalistic, editorial, and consulting work.
I have no certain information if he eventually was paid that outstanding money but I have my doubts. In fact, Peter Marshall has indicated to me that he has not paid to John Radford (or to his widow) the money that Marshall owed him. In fact, Marshall once said challenged me with a question “do you prefer that I pay you, or that I pay the estate of the late John Radford?” What can one answer such a question?
What to do to get paid by Peter Marshall?
So, what is there to do about a situation like this? In some ways all is very clear. Peter Marshall and Chef Magazine owe us money, so it should be a clear case to bring to legal procedures to get paid.
The problem is of, course, that less than one thousand pounds is small enough to make it difficult to involve a lawyer. Not unlikely, that is something that Peter Marshall is well aware of. If there are many creditors (have ANY other writers or photographers been paid?) but each one has a claim of a relatively small amount of money, then no one will have enough funds or clout our motivation to make it worthwhile to hire a lawyer. Most likely, other writers may have smaller claims on Peter Marshall and Chef Magazine. We did four projects in one go. Others do perhaps just a single one. Perhaps this is the calculation? That none of the suppliers (journalists, photographers, editorial staff) will individually have enough budget (or motivation) to pay for a lawyer? Is that the cool calculation? Then perhaps it would be time for all those (how many are there?) that have not been paid by Peter Marshall and Chef Magazine to join together in a joint action?
And there are other options. One can still decide to hire a lawyer, even if the full payment will go totally to paying the legal fees. That may not necessarily be a bad idea. There is also the possibility of the UK small claims court procedure. That brings with it substantially lesser legal costs. There is even a new option in the UK legal system with a specific route through the British small claims court for infringement on intellectual property (copyright). Considering that we have not been paid for the text and the photography Chef Magazine had no right to publish the articles. They were given the right to publish provided we were paid. Since they have not paid Peter Marshall and Chef Magazine are indeed infringing on our intellectual property. Copyright theft.
Another option might even be to involve a debt collection agency.
Is this just the tip of the iceberg?
It is possible that we (and John Radford) are the only ones who have not been paid by Peter Marshall and Chef Magazine. If that is the case I guess it is both good and bad news. Good because it means that other people, other suppliers to Chef Magazine and Peter Marshall, have been treated honestly. Bad because I can only wonder why, in that case, we were unfortunate enough not to get paid.
But somehow I have my doubts that we are alone. I would not be surprised if what we experience is the same as what many others have experienced who have worked for Peter Marshall or Chef Magazine. My guess is that we are not alone in not having been paid.
This could be an interesting story to follow up on. It will not be very difficult to find out which other journalists and photographers have been hired by Peter Marshall and have contributed to Chef Magazine.
It would be interesting to hear what they have to say when I speak to them.
So, who is Peter Marshall? What is Chef Magazine?
Chef Magazine is a UK publication that is run by Peter Marshall, the editor in chief and publisher. And owner. Peter Marshall operates, in addition to Chef Magazine Ltd two other operations that seem to be related and in the publishing business, and that have the same address: Network Contract Publishing Ltd and Buckingham Book Publishing.
However, I should also underline that all contacts that we have had with Peter Marshall have been with him personally, on his private phone, through his private email, email@example.com, so it is perhaps more correct to say that we had contracted with Peter Marshall rather than with Chef Magazine. Whatever the case, they should be considered as joint and severally liable.
Chef Magazine has a website, http://www.chefmagazine.co.uk/, and an address, Chef Magazine, 28 Ballmoor, Celtic Court, Buckingham, MK18 1RQ, +44 (0)1280 829300. On that website one can read a profile on Peter Marshall: “Peter Marshall founded the Network Group and has built a reputation for quality publishing in the most demanding sectors, including in-house publishing for some of Europe’s greatest hotels and restaurants. Chef Magazine is a new venture building on the strengths of that experience, backed by internationally-respected chefs and created by a team with nearly a century of experience between them.”
The “quality” of that publishing does apparently not extend to the quality of prompt payment, or any payment at all, to journalists and photographers. At least not to us.
That website also specifies a “World Board” for Chef Magazine that in addition to Peter Marshall includes the starred British chef Michel Roux OBE (Waterside Inn at Bray).
There is a “Chef Board” that includes Chris Galvin, Michelin starred restaurateur (Conran restaurants, Mezzo and Bluebird, Almeida, Orrery, Galvin Bistrot de Luxe, Galvin La Chappelle), Claude Bosi, Michelin starred French chef working in England (Hibiscus restaurant), and Sat Bains (Restaurant Sat Bains), also a Michelin starred chef.
There is also a “UK Board” including Shirley Marshall as “managing editor”, John Radford as editorial consultant (see above), Brian Turner CBE, chef (Ready Steady Cook, Saturday Kitchen, Saturday Cooks, This Morning, Capital Hotel in London, President of the Academy of Culinary Arts), and Alain Roux (The Waterside Inn at Bray).
(All these references were on the site at the time of writing this article. It may have changed.)
I wonder if the World Board, Chef Board, and UK Board that include some very high profile names are aware of Peter Marshall’s business practices vis-à-vis his suppliers?
Peter Marshall is apparently also associated with other operations:
“Buckingham Book Publishing Ltd” appears in email signatures from Peter Marshall or his associated that we have been in touch with. It is unclear what kind of existence that has today. On the internet that redirects to “Midpoint Book Sales & Distribution” (http://www.midpointtrade.com), a US operation whose president and CEO is Eric M Kampmann. It might be that it is coincidental and that this is a US company that just happens to have the same name, without any link whatsoever with Peter Marshall. Or it might be that Peter Marhsall has perhaps sold (?) the US operation of the company.
In the UK, Buckingham Book Publishing Limited seems to have a more uncertain existence. Company-check has this to say: “The latest Annual Accounts submitted to Companies House for the year up to 30/04/2011 reported ‘cash at bank’ of £8,984, ‘liabilities’ worth £278,345, ‘net worth’ of £1,246 and ‘assets’ worth £276,531.” It also notes that accounts have been filed up to 30/04/2011 and that next accounts are due 30/09/2012. Not very encouraging. Peter John Marshall is noted as one of two company directors, together with Robert Frank Haysom.
“Network Contract Publishing Ltd” is another company that Peter Marshall seems to be associated with. It also appears in email footers from Chef Magazine. Indeed, it has the same postal address as Chef Magazine Ltd. According to Companycheck the company is dissolved and it is noted that “Network Contract Publishing Limited has not filed accounts”. Its website, http://www.networkpublishingltd.com, is not functional.
In fact, on Company-Director-check it is noted that Peter John Marshall has “20 current or previous company director or secretary appointments” (http://company-director-check.co.uk/director/913148569). 12 of those companies are “dissolved”. Two are “in liquidation”. And six are active. Chef Magazine is noted as “active”.
So, there you have it. Our experience of working with Peter Marshall and Chef Magazine. I look forward to hearing the stories that others will tell me when I continue investigating and talk to other people who have worked for Chef Magazine and Peter Marshall.
If you are a food and wine journalist this is the kind of mishaps you can get into. I hope that you never will because it is not fun. It is wise to make sure that you will get paid before you deliver anything to someone that you are not familiar with. That is of course easier said than done. Your client might be a mirage. Your client might be a fraudster. Or it might be a brilliant new start on a long term business relationship. You never know.
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