Irish print firm accused of 'commercial blackmail'
By Anthony Garvey Tuesday, 08 January 2008
An Irish national newspaper company has accused a print firm of "commercial blackmail" in a disputed claim for £8.3m (11.2m euros) over an alleged breach of contract.
Thomas Crosbie Holdings, which publishes the daily Irish Examiner and Evening Echo, as well as several regional titles, told the High Court in Dublin that as part of the dispute, its contract printers, Webprint Concepts (WCL), was threatening to block the production of supplements and advertising inserts for 17 of its papers.
The nature of the alleged breach of contract was not disclosed, but the court heard that the print firm was claiming £8.3m, plus damages, and that mediation talks between the parties had failed. According to the newspaper company, the disputed claim is expected to go to a hearing in the Irish Commercial Court.
In the meantime, company director Anthony Dinan described the print firm's threat to block supplements and inserts as "tantamount to commercial blackmail" and asked the High Court to ban the action. If it went ahead, he said, it would cause "irreparable damage" to the company's titles and hit both readership and revenue.
Dinan maintained that an immediate court injunction was necessary as he felt the print firm might not be able to meet any subsequent damages claim arising from the threatened action. By its own admission, he said, the firm was "in a straitened financial position", with its ability to continue in business dependent on the continuing financial support of its shareholders, creditors and bankers.
His company, he added, was the print firm's principal creditor and he was concerned, given its financial situation, that it could end up in receivership or liquidation.
The judge, Justice Frank Clarke, granted an injunction preventing the threatened action going ahead. However, the order is temporary and will be reviewed, allowing the parties scope for behind-the-scenes settlement talks.
The WCL plant, a £37m project on the outskirts of Cork city, was officially opened two years ago by Irish trade and enterprise minister Michael Martin. Its main customer was Cork-based Thomas Crosbie Holdings, which had decided to close its own city centre printing operation after 165 years, and outsource production of all its titles to the new plant.
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