Acquisition couldn’t help square Circle

Jo Francis
Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Oh, how the might have fallen. Again. The abrupt bankruptcy of Helio Charleroi at the end of January. The ‘fire sale’ of CPI Group. Further sell-offs, further closures. And now, the end.

Over the space of just 12 weeks things have gone horribly wrong at Circle Media Group. The business had looked increasingly like a house of cards built on the flimsiest of foundations. 

Once contagion spread it all came apart very quickly, and the concerns raised by continental union officials in February proved well-founded. 

Wages being paid late, customers paying the bank directly, key suppliers not kept in the loop. Once things get to this stage it rarely turns out well. 

When former Polestar executive Peter Andreou arrived at the business in the summer of 2016 on a mission to consolidate the European high-volume printing industry, it felt like he was trying to out-Walstead Walstead. 

Unfortunately for Circle’s staff and suppliers, trying to be Walstead doesn’t make you Walstead. From the sidelines, it felt like Circle Media bought too much, too quickly and then didn’t have the cash or management bandwidth to restructure its purchases. 

Meanwhile, volumes at that end of the market continue to decline, and we’re in the midst of another adjustment – compare and contrast the current carnage and uncertainty at Circle Media with the phased shutdown over two years of Bertelsmann Printing Group’s Nuremberg gravure site, where the company is standing by all of its obligations and everyone is fully informed. 

Key learnings for print bosses of all sizes? You can’t acquire your way out of trouble, and if you do acquire you need a clear plan about how that will deliver real business benefits. And then you need the funds and the wherewithal to make it happen. 


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