Factory was busy prior to Christmas

Venn Holdings hits the buffers

Thirlby and Rae: duo plan to capitalise on their know-how and networks
Thirlby (left) and Rae in happier times

The Venn Holdings buy-and-build dream is in tatters after print wing JDP was shuttered after Christmas, with liquidators expected to be appointed imminently.

Venn Holdings was set up in 2021 by well known industry names Anthony Thirlby and Andy Rae. It made its first buy in March of that year with the acquisition of Whitchurch-based John Dollin Printing Services, subsequently renamed JDP.

In December 2021 the duo acquired Winchester-based Culverlands Press, with the operation subsequently consolidated at the Whitchurch site.

The duo invested heavily in state-of-the-art high performance digital and litho printing kit including a four-colour plus coater Push to Stop Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 106 installed last year after the business switched to B2 litho, and then back to B1 again. It also invested in HP Indigo 100K and HP Indigo 12000 B2 format digital presses from HP.

However, last summer the dynamic duo split, with Rae departing. At the time Thirlby said he planned to buy Rae’s shareholding, and that sales at the 33-employee firm were on track to hit £10m.

At the time, Thirlby told Printweek: “The business is very much on track. Ironically sales is not my problem at the moment, recruitment is.”

He said that plans for further M&A deals had to “go on the back burner” because of Rae’s departure.

Thirlby is well known in the industry for his focus on workflow and efficient production, and he made frequent posts on LinkedIn about the performance figures being achieved at the factory. He also regularly spoke on the topic at international events.

But the business also took on a large amount of debt as a result of its ambitions, and while the factory was apparently busy in the run up to Christmas it appears the rapid expansion may have resulted in a cashflow crisis.

One supplier to the business commented: “They used a factoring company and there was a big client they couldn’t get insurance on anymore, so they couldn’t draw down against their invoices.

“They were shipping a hell of a lot of work out before Christmas, but they also told staff not to come back until the 4th. Some people at the factory have worked at John Dollin, and then JDP, all their working lives.”

A different source pointed to the loss of a large customer as contributing to the situation.

Printweek understands the factory is now shuttered, and that insolvency practitioners from Azets in Southampton will be appointed soon, once the necessary notifications and legal formalities have been completed.

Sources said that all three legal entities: Venn Holdings, John Dollin Printing Services, and Culverlands Press will enter Creditors Voluntary Liquidation, although this is yet to be confirmed.

Skipton Business Finance has a wide-ranging charge over JDP’s assets, while brothers Ian and Nigel Dollin have an outstanding charge over three industrial units at Whitchurch.

Compass Business Finance provided funding for the original buy-and-build strategy.

The abbreviated accounts for Venn Holdings for the period from 12 February 2021 to 30 April 2022 showed just over £4.9m falling due to creditors within one year.

At the time of writing, Thirlby and his wife Christina, together with Rae and his wife Claire, remain the current co-shareholders and directors at Venn Holdings according to the filings at Companies House.

Printweek has approached Thirlby and Rae for comment.