Hibbert leaves as administrators strive to finalise Polestar deals

Jo Francis
Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Polestar chief executive Barry Hibbert is no longer with the business.

PrintWeek understands that Hibbert has been made redundant by administrators from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

PwC will not comment on individuals, but Hibbert is known to have told industry contacts that he has left the business.

Swagatam Mukerji, who joined Polestar in January as chief financial officer, has also updated his LinkedIn profile to say that his time with the business concluded in May. He said he was “Retained by administrator to provide business analytical input to the sales process”.

The European Rotogravure Association (ERA) has also contacted its members about Hibbert’s departure, because Hibbert was an ERA board member. The association now needs to recruit a replacement. 

PrintWeek was unable to contact Hibbert for comment.

A source close to the situation said: “Barry would have been a huge TUPE liability and nobody would take that on. Administrators tend to get rid of all the highly paid staff before a sale decision is made.”

PwC is under pressure to conclude the sale of Polestar’s plants and assets as soon as possible, due to the exodus of work from the group.

Sources also said that a bid by Richard Desmond, the owner of Northern & Shell and Express Newspapers, had been rejected. Express Newspapers has now pulled its weekly supplement printing contract from Polestar.

Express Newspapers did not respond to a request for comment.

PwC has confirmed that it had made a further 26 redundancies at Sheffield, and one at Chantry at the end of last week.

The future for Sheffield, one of the newest large-scale print sites in the country, appears increasingly bleak and workers there fear for their future.

One employee told PrintWeek: “If there is no buyer by this Friday then it will cease trading. It is likely that this weekend could be the last.”

More than 100 jobs have now gone at Sheffield.

Unite national officer Ian Tonks said: "The continuing uncertainty of not knowing each day whether you have a job to go to is a terrible situation for employees. We can only hope that a deal is done as soon as possible.

“If customers keep questioning the ability of the sites to produce the product, and customers keep walking away, then inevitably workforce reductions follow and it's our members and their families that suffer."

At least two buyers are still known to be interested in web offset site Polestar Bicester, where the job losses have been relatively minimal.

Separately, there is speculation that Richard Walsh could be behind a possible deal to buy Polestar Stones and Wheatons. PrintWeek understands that Walsh is finance director of the two businesses but works via an agency and is not a Polestar employee.

He has set up two new companies: Wheatons Exeter Ltd and Henry Stone Ltd. Henry Stone is the name of the original founder of Stones the Printers in Banbury.

Walsh could not be reached for comment either.

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