Wages not paid for four weeks

Workers left in limbo at PFI subsidiary

McMurray: no word from CEO yet on latest turn of events

Another PFI Group company has gone into administration, while the trading status of a separate subsidiary is unclear.

Administrators from FRP Advisory were appointed at Gardners NW Ltd on 17 November.

PFI acquired Cardiff-based Gardners from Hexcite Group via a pre-pack in August 2022. The £100,000 deal was for Gardners’ stock and certain assets.

It subsequently emerged that the wide-format print specialist went down owing creditors nearly £5.5m.

PFI bought Gardners through PFI Bidco 1 Ltd, which was renamed Gardners NW Ltd afternwards.

More than 100 staff transferred to PFI by TUPE at the time.

Gardners now appears to have ceased trading and the phone line was ringing out at the time of writing.

Yesterday (20 November), Service Graphics announced that it had acquired the trade and assets of another PFI business, Cestrian Imaging, and would also “ensure clients of Gardners in Cardiff continue to receive the service and delivery historically expected from the business”.

Administrators from FRP Advisory were also appointed at Cestrian Imaging on 17 November.

Separately, Printweek has learned that the locks were changed at another PFI Group business, Kelso-based Signmaster, last Thursday (16 November).

A source close to the situation said that workers were initially informed that the locks were changed at the behest of administrators from FRP.

However, at the time of writing Signmaster E.D. Ltd was not flagged as being in administration, or the subject of a Notice of Intention to Appoint Administrators.

“It seems we were lied to and the locks were changed on the instruction of [PFI Group CEO] Darren McMurray,” the source said.

Employees at the business have not been paid for four weeks and have been left in limbo.

Printweek understands the business employs around 10 staff.

“They haven’t been paid any wages and PFI hasn’t paid the rent. The staff have all got children and it’s coming up for Christmas, and because it’s not actually in administration they can’t get any money,” the source said.

Printweek has approached McMurray for comment.

It’s been a torrid year for Rymack Sign Solutions, which trades as PFI Group. The firm posted sales of £31.9m and an operating profit of nearly £2.5m for the period from 1 January 2021 to 30 December 2021.

However, £4.2m in exceptional items related to its Futurama business propelled it to a bottom-line loss of £1.96m, compared to a profit of £1.43m in the prior period.

Futurama went into administration in May, and PFI missed a payment deadline for its purchase of the Works Manchester business the same month.

In August PFI’s Mardan Products business ceased trading as McMurray restructured the group into three divisions.

Earlier this month PFI put three other Scottish sign operations into administration: Sign Plus and its divisions Lofthus Signs and Jasmine.

That was swiftly followed by the administrations of Cestrian and Gardners.

Note: Whitchurch-based Signmaster Systems is completely unconnected to Signmaster E.D. based in Kelso.