THE managing director of collapsed hamper firm Farepak has said he is sorry that his company's failure has wrecked Christmas for tens of thousands of people.

Nick Gilodi-Johnson, who has not made any public announcement since Farepak went into liquidation on October 13, broke his silence over the weekend.

"I am so sorry this situation has arisen, and affected so many people," he said.

Mr Gilodi-Johnson said he had been advised to lie low since the Department for Trade and Industry inquiry was launched, but that he wanted to say how much "personal anguish" the collapse had caused him.

However, the Farepak collapse descended into a mud-slinging argument between the company and Halifax Bank of Scotland.

Sir Clive Thompson, chairman of Westlea-based Farepak's parent company European Home Retail, also went public and said HBOS had hung Farepak "out to dry" because the bank had refused to push ahead with several different rescue packages suggested by the company. "I feel deeply for all the people who have been hurt by this collapse," he said.

Sir Clive said that HBOS refused a request to "ring-fence" Farepak savers' money, so it would not be used to prop up EHR, but this was turned down, and also claimed that the bank had agreed a rescue package in September, providing that Farepak borrowed £13m. It managed to find £11.5m, but the bank refused to accept the shortfall.

But HBOS came out fighting and said it was "disappointed" by Sir Clive's remarks.

"We did not walk away when the going got tough," said a spokesman. "We supported the management as they sought to get a durable solution. There is a vast difference between a proposal and a durable solution."

Speaking on a national radio programme, Dermot Power from administrators BDO Stoy Hayward told Farepak customers they would be looking at pennies, rather than pounds in returns from what they had saved with the firm. He said their best bet for compensation was from the relief fund set up last week, and that in terms of a wrecked company Farepak was "right up there".

Vicky Turner, 33, of Walcot, was a Farepak agent who lost £840 of her own money and had collected more than £4,000 from her customers.

Last week she travelled to Westminster to fight for justice for Farepak victims, but said yesterday she was not interested in the bank and the company's squabbles.

"The decent thing would have been to inform the country that they were in difficulties," she said. "They could have done that in March or April. Instead, they waited until they got all the final payments."

  • Read all about the Farepak Fiasco and the campaign for compensation. Tell us your story, read about others' experiences and help fill our hamper for the Farepak directors.