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July 27, 1987


By CBR Staff Writer

When Fee Ltd went into receivership earlier this year it had three assets, according to John Atkinson. The bank claimed the Bushey, Hertfordshire headquarters, former managing director Alan Liebert took the rights to the signature verification package, Signify, and, after a competitive auction, John and Maggie Atkinson regained control of Fee Maintenance Services. Back in 1983, they had sold a 50% stake in what was then Atkinson Computer Engineering to Fee, a decision John Atkinson came to regret when Fee started to run into trouble in 1985. According to Atkinson, the board, which was already badly split, took on too many commitments and over-extended the company’s resources. As a result, and despite the IBM maintenance arm’s need for more investment, Atkinson was unable to raise the money to refinance Fee Maintenance Services in early 1986. Looking back on his experiences with Fee, culminating in the receivership, Atkinson is now relieved that he didn’t allow his business to be moved to Bushey. That, he says, would have been the end of it. As it was, it was a close thing. The Atkinsons have used all their savings in their attempt to refloat the ship. Not only did they have to pay the receiver a higher price than they were expecting, they then had to write off UKP41,000 worth of bad debts. Now, with a further investment of UKP100,000, they are looking to move forward again. John Atkinson takes heart from the loyalty of both customers and staff during what has obviously been a traumatic period. Customers, he says, have been bringing payments forward and the 11 staff have all stayed. By the end of next year, Atkinson hopes to have doubled turnover. He is hoping to start peripherals broking again and to add another engineer to the two already based in Liverpool. Other ambitious plans include a move into renting, and into the System 36 market but, as Atkinson readily admits, the next six months will be a period of consolidation. Since Fee Ltd’s demise, though, Fee Maintenance Services has won contracts to look after two newly-installed CPUs at existing customers and Atkinson is hopeful of a few more falling into his lap. He says FMS is now trading profitably. FMS claims to charge 35% less for 4300 and 308X maintenance – none of FMS’s50 customers, despite including banks, insurance brokers and oil companies, have 3090s – than IBM.

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