Long-established family-owned magazine printer Headley Brothers has been put up for sale and has filed for protection from its creditors while the sale process is executed.
Advisory firm Smith & Williamson is handling the sale, and partner Steve Adshead told PrintWeek that, contrary to rumours circulating in the trade, Headley Brothers was not currently in administration.
The company has, however, filed a notice of intention to appoint an administrator, which places a moratorium on action by creditors.
“This has been filed to give the business a breathing space while we try to find a buyer,” Adshead explained. “The company has done a lot of restructuring over the past couple of years and is now in a much stronger trading position. But there was an overhang of historic debt that it was difficult to get out of.”
Adshead said that a reduction in the credit line from a major supplier had brought about the current situation.
“This is a good, well-established business with a strong customer base and we have already had a number of expressions of interest in it.”
Headley Brothers is based in Ashford, Kent. The company was established in 1881 as a printer of bags and other sundries for local businesses.
The business employs around 190 staff and had sales of just under £19m in its last filed results, for 2014. It runs a 16pp web press and a 24pp model, and three Heidelberg Speedmaster 102 presses with CutStar reel sheeters.
It has extensive in-house finishing and mailing capabilities and a digital printing division with HP Indigo, Kodak and Canon kit.
Headley Brothers managing director Simon Bingham said: “We are actively looking for people who can invest in the business and take it forward. That is the preferred option.”
According to the Smith & Williamson sale document, Headley Brothers made a gross profit of £3.6m on sales of £19.3m in 2015, but a loss on discontinued operations of £1.4m contributed to a bottom line loss of £1.8m.
It shut down its loss-making Invicta Direct bindery business.
The firm prints for some 200 customers, many of which are long-standing, and took on a substantial amount of weekly supplement work for Express Newspapers owner Northern & Shell after the collapse of Polestar last year.
Over the past year the Pitt family have stepped back from the day-to-day running of the business, with Jonathan and Roger Pitt both resigning as directors of the operating company last year.
The majority of shares in the holding company, Lithecat Holdings (formerly Headley Brothers Holdings) are held by members of the Pitt and Carlton families. Christopher Pitt and his sister Bertha Carlton both died last year.
PrintWeek understands that the property interests are held in a separate company, but that the printing business has a 10-year lease on the Ashford site.