Manchester Printers Group status unclear

Manchester Printers Group: "balance sheet has been decimated"
Manchester Printers Group: "balance sheet has been decimated"

The future for Manchester Printers Group is unclear after the former owner of one of its string of acquisitions was forced to buy his business back out of administration.

Michael Berry sold his Jameson Print Finishers business to Manchester Printers in March 2022, with the deal completing in April. 

Since then, Eccles-based Manchester Printers has made a string of other buys, including Chelma Graphics, Signature Printing and Deanprint despite challenging trading conditions resulting from the war in Ukraine, energy price hikes, rising inflation and the economic slowdown in the UK.

Deanprint was its fourth buy in four months.

Berry told Printweek that post-acquisition all the accounting was handled by the group's head office, and over the past few months it had become apparent that “all was not rosy” with numerous calls received at the Accrington finishing company from creditors about non-payment of bills. 

“On 2 March I found the three top people from Manchester Printers – Gavin Page, Sarah Pinkney and David Whittles – in my office. They told me they were putting the whole group into liquidation,” Berry stated.

“Obviously there’s no coming back from that. But that’s turned out not to be the truth.”

Subsequently, on 9 March invoice financing firm Bibby Financial Services appointed administrators Richard Cole and Stephen Kenny of KBL Advisory as joint administrators of Jameson Print Finishers. 

Berry, who still owns the Jameson building, said he was “not prepared to let this business wither and die”. 

“We’ve got good staff, good customers and good equipment.”

He reached a deal with the administrators to buy back the business and assets, and has set up a new company Jameson Print Finishers North West. 

“Probably by Monday next week we can be up and running again.”

Berry is also still out of pocket from the original sale deal, despite having a cross-guarantee with Manchester Printers Group inserted in the contract. 

“He bought another four companies, we all said ‘slow down’ but he didn’t. There was just not enough cash coming in,” Berry added.

The phone number for Manchester Printers went unanswered this morning (16 March). 

Printweek has approached Page, Pinkney and Whittles for comment.

In a statement, Pinkney said: “I can advise that we have been seeking legal advice on each individual company’s viability to trade as a going concern.”

She said that sales had dropped between 35-38% across the group since September 2022.

“The group has tried to support this impact, but the balance sheet has been decimated. The combined effects of Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the ongoing war in Ukraine have created an environment of uncertainty and instability, causing a significant downturn in our industry and our own businesses.

“We have not lost any customers but gained more during this time, but they have reduced their marketing spend to combat their own business issues which has led to less spending and lower quantities,” she stated.

“The challenges we have faced have been compounded by rising costs of paper, energy, labour and inflation, which have significantly impacted our bottom line. These external forces will impact even the strongest balance sheets, period.

“Personnel ill health has also played a big part in this decision to close the doors on the companies. Our advisers KBL in Sale, Cheshire will update as and when we know more,” Pinkney concluded.

Industry sources in the region said that a number of employees are believed to have been made redundant, but without any payment from the business. 

“A lot of people are affected. They waited for the day before pay day to tell them and have burnt a lot of people.”

The group is believed to employ around 80 staff altogether. 

Page is currently disqualified as a director. His three-and-a-half year banning order expires on 29 March.

He was banned in 2019 after Encore Catalogue Group Ltd went into voluntary liquidation in 2017 owing HMRC £109,386.

Page’s partner Pinkney is the sole registered director for Manchester Printers Group and its associated companies. 

She is also the director of two new companies, Oink Oink Ltd incorporated on 3 February, and MPG SPV 11 Ltd, incorporated on the same date. 

Pinkney is also the director of ten other MPG SPV companies, numbered 1 through to 10.

The historic Deanprint business, established in 1890, was acquired by Manchester Printers last August. It has been relocated to a new site on the Lawnhurst Trading Estate in Stockport.

At the time of the purchase Whittles said it would take group turnover up to £7m.

Deanprint has been described as “the jewel in the crown” by industry sources and is still trading. 

“They have spent an absolute fortune moving them to new premises. In the meantime the other companies are struggling and they’ve run out of money.”

Deanprint’s previous owners sold up after selling the firm’s old site, a former mill in Cheadle in a prime location on the A560 close to the M60 junction, to supermarket Lidl reportedly in a £4m-plus deal. 

Manchester Printers began its acquisitive spree in 2018 with the purchase of print management firm Berkeley Business Forms, which trades as North Wales Printers.

Other buys included Allenco trading as Wheatsheaf Print, Printdesigns Wilmslow, and HCM Commercial Printers.