Review of 2017: Stones Ashford – Decline and fall

By Nick Mansley, Friday 29 December 2017

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As the year drew to a close, the company that had been built out of the collapse of Headley Brothers was itself looking into the abyss.

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On 17 November, PrintWeek reported that Stones Ashford, the business resurrected out of administration-hit Headley Brothers, had been shut down abruptly. On 20 November, employees were addressed in a meeting with Rob Gershon, partnership director at TVI Group, the financial backer of the Henry Stone companies, but left “in limbo” as the company was not put into administration. The news was a hard blow for those employed by Headleys when it went into administration. “He read out our entitlements but we pretty much know that off by heart by now due to what happened in February,” one employee said... 

On 22 November Henry Stone Printers blamed the failure of Stones Ashford on the knock-on negative effects of its previous ownership, while attempting to reassure customers of its Banbury operation. In a letter to customers, Henry Stone’s directors stated: “It is anticipated that an administrator will be appointed to the Ashford business imminently in order to manage the facility shut down.” It also stated that Henry Stones had been unable to agree “an equitable solution” for a manageable payment plan with E.On, which had been left with a near-£200,000 bad debt after Headleys went into administration... 

Two days later, it emerged that the status of some workers was unclear as HMRC was not aware of their employment at the firm – some employees had recently received HMRC rebates relating to the administration of their former employee Headley Brothers, and as a result a question mark had been raised over their current status. Union Unite vowed to “secure pay justice” for workers, calling the firm’s behaviour “contemptible”...

On 27 November, staff received an official communication at last. A letter from Henry Stone Printers managing director Richard Walsh apologised for the uncertainty and stated that sufficient funds were now in place for an administrator to be appointed...

By 29 November, bosses at Henry Stone Printers were accused of ‘stealing Christmas’ after employees at Stones Ashford were not paid their November wages – the administrator had also not materialised. “It’s outrageous, we’ve all done a service for the company, trying to help keep things going,” said an employee...

On 30 November, Unite hosted a meeting for employees. “It was a good meeting,” said Stones Ashford FOC Matt Taylor. “It was quite heated to begin with, due to the understandable frustration of people. We’ve been told we will be made redundant today, and our P45s are being prepared at Banbury.” KRE Corporate Recover was expected to be engaged as liquidator...

On 14 December it was confirmed that KRE had been apponted as liquidator. Paul Ellison and Gareth Roberts of KRE were appointed at one minute to midnight on 13 December.

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