Wheatons closes doors

Max Goldbart
Friday, June 2, 2017

Wheatons Exeter, the former Polestar book printing operation, officially closed its doors last Friday (2 June), leading to 35 further redundancies.

The book and journal printer was placed in administration two weeks ago, leading to 24 redundancies, including managing director Tony Chard, with Gareth Roberts and Paul Ellison of KRE Corporate Recovery appointed as joint administrators on 16 May. It continued to trade and was marketed for sale as a going concern with a deadline set for 24 May.

Roberts said: “I think anyone buying the business would need to bring quite a chunk of turnover with them. It’s a big factory, it needs plenty of turnover going through it.

“We are still talking to several parties but the main issue with people we spoke to who decided to not register their interest was the need to bring some turnover with them. We never give up and there are still two parties that we are in discussions with. There is still that prospect.”

Roberts added that all redundant staff will be making claims against the government’s redundancy scheme for statutory payment.

Representatives from the local job centre and from the union Unite have met with employees and are assisting with the claims and with getting them back into work. Four staff have been kept on temporarily to caretake the premises.

The news comes just over a week after Spencer Chapman, director of European valuation services at Hilco Global, delivered an impassioned plea for the business to be given a chance under new ownership. Chapman had been instructed by KRE to act as chattel agent to value the assets of Wheatons Exeter.

However, one owner of one book printer who looked at the business told PrintWeek that "it would be too hard to turn it around".  

Circa £6m-turnover Wheatons Exeter was formerly Polestar Wheatons. After Polestar’s collapse it was acquired by an MBO team last June 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.

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.

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