Industry expert makes Wheatons plea

An industry valuations veteran has issued a heartfelt plea for the workforce at Wheatons Exeter to be given another chance under new ownership.

The book and journal printer was placed into administration by its directors last week.

The business is being marketed for sale as a going concern by KRE Corporate Recovery, and the deadline for expressions of interest is today (24 May).

Spencer Chapman, director of European valuation services at Hilco Global, has spent 28 years on his side of the trade, and has been instructed by the administrators as chattel agent to value the assets at Wheatons Exeter.

Chapman told PrintWeek that he had had a "Road to Damascus" moment after spending time at the plant detailing its assets: “The workforce and skills available at this company are second to none. They don’t seem to carry any of the ‘baggage’ of the Polestar years and just want to get on with it.

“If anybody out there cares about print craft and has some profitable turnover to reverse in, then Devon would be a lovely part of the world to invest in,” he added.

The Wheatons business dates back to 1780, when it began life as a high-street bookshop and printer, adopting the Wheatons name after a change of ownership in 1835.

It has sales of circa £6m and currently employs 37 staff.

“They have real proper craft there and good kit, including the Timson ZMR press and 27-station Muller Martini Bolero binder,” Chapman said. "It's all just sitting here waiting."

Wheatons Exeter was formerly Polestar Wheatons. After Polestar’s collapse it was acquired by an MBO team last year along with Henry Stone in Banbury, but the loss of a major contract and an inability to agree a repayment plan with HMRC forced it into administration.

Gareth Roberts and Paul Ellison of KRE Corporate Recovery were appointed as joint administrators on 16 May.

Roberts told PrintWeek that KRE has received several expressions of interest in the business.

"We've had considerable interest in it, and the good news is that the work in hand will continue into next week, so that gives us a little bit more time. I've been very impressed with the commitment of the employees," he said.




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