The Hurrans garden centres family could be set to make shock return to running two of their stores a former manager has said, despite the five-centre business being in administration.
The 100-year-old, £3 million annual turnover Hurrans chain went into administration owing £1.4 million in February.
But questions are being asked who will supply Hurrans' Banbury and Churchdown centres after former centre manager Robin Rycroft said the family had accepted bids to lease the sites.
Rycroft, formerly Hurrans Langstone Newport branch manager, said he was forced to make 25 staff redundant in January, having first heard about the garden centre group's going into administration in Horticulture Week.
Hurrans made 60 staff redundant in all after shutting their centres following prolonged losses.
Rycroft said Hurrans' director Richard Hurran told him he was going to offer him a job but changed his mind when Rycroft protested about how a family company was owing £1.4 million to creditors.
Hurrans also has "a large pension deficit", according to chairman Arthur Hurran.
Rycroft said: "It's terrible. They can't make people redundant then open again. All I'm doing is telling the truth. The fact they made people redundant and can start again so easily doesn't look right."
He added: "I do feel bitter for my staff but the law seems to favour the directors in this case and not the average working person."
Ryecroft, formerly Garden & Leisure customer services manager and divisional troubleshooter, then worked for administrators Milner Boardman & Partners opening doors for suppliers such as Solus and Suttons to pick up stock and holding sell-off sales to help pay back creditors.
He arranged for Pencoed garden centre to buy gravel and peat and for Chepstow garden centre to redeem 40% worth of Hurrans gift vouchers.
That deal is over now that Hurrans' directors James, Richard and Arthur Hurran arranged to run the Churchdown and Banbury sites last week after putting in offers a month ago. The Hurran family is believed to have bought stock from closed centres.
Webbs Garden Centre is running Hurrans' West Hagley site while the Cowbridge and Newport Langstone sites are empty.
Former Newport shrub manager Andy Reynolds is set to run Banbury for the Hurrans.
Meanwhile Robin Rycroft is looking for a new job in garden retail. He had been at Hurrans for a year.
Milner Boardman said: "A purchaser has purchased the assets of the company. Maybe it is the Hurrans' intention [to lease two centres]. Nothing has been finalised." They would not comment further. Agent Hammond Phillips would not comment.