Review of 2022: The Demise of YM Group

At the start of 2022 there was already intense speculation over the financial health of the YM Group business. In its most recent accounts, for the year ending 31 May 2020, YM Group had sales of £114.8m and made a pre-tax loss of £8.3m.

The group had ambitions to be a dominant player in UK web offset, following the 2015 MBO and purchase of Polestar Chantry, but the plan rapidly unravelled. Plagued by kit breakdowns, big customers were beginning to lose patience.

Unite regional officer Darren Rushworth said the union had been trying to have a meaningful dialogue with YM’s board for some time, and had been asking for clarity over the group’s financial position. He described operations at “skint” YM Chantry, bought from Polestar in 2016, as an “absolute shambles”. 

On 25 March, Printweek reported that FRP Advisory had been brought in at the group to run a ‘fast track’ sale process. Notices of Intention to Appoint an Administrator (NOI) were filed relating to YM Chantry, York Mailing and Pindar. 

At this point YM was saying the NOIs were “procedural” and that administrators might not be needed at all. However, some YM customers had been informed that the group may be unable to produce scheduled jobs. Major clients with time-sensitive weeklies being printed at the group included DMG Media, Bauer Media and Guardian News & Media. 

On 26 March, Printweek reported that printing had halted at YM Chantry and that customers were on site removing their paper stocks. A team from potential purchaser Walstead had been seen at the web sites, but was said to have been “horrified” by the state of the equipment. There was also a lack of financial information and the last three months’ accounts were not available.

On 31 March, FRP Advisory was officially appointed as the administrator of the group’s three web division businesses.

Group operations appeared to be chaotic and rudderless. Creditors were blocking access to York Mailing and Lettershop, although the latter was not part of the sale process at the time. One worker at York Mailing said: “Nobody’s been paid. Staff were still working last night in the hope it would go through today. At 9am they downed tools because they haven’t been paid. Management have abandoned the site.”

On 4 April, Printweek reported that DMG Media had pulled forward its plans to produce its Weekend supplement on its own presses.

On 1 May, the owner of Lettershop’s Leeds premises repossessed the site. A source close to the site said the company was months behind with the rent: “The factory is sealed off. Locks changed and alarm codes all changed. Entrances barricaded.”

On 4 May, Walstead confirmed that it acquired most of the assets of YM Group’s shuttered web offset businesses in administration. Initially the plan was to restart one of the former YM sites, if enough customer support could be found.

On 26 May Walstead announced it would restart the York Mailing site to test the waters.

On 30 May, the scale of YM’s web debts became clearer. Initial estimates from FRP Advisory stated that unsecured creditors were owed more than £61m.

On 17 June, Paragon confirmed that it was to buy The Lettershop Group as a going concern.

On 27 June, the rest of YM Group was put into administration, marking an ignominious end for a business with lofty ambitions.