Book printing blow as BT&D closure announced

By Jo Francis, Tuesday 13 May 2014

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The book printing operation of Butler Tanner & Dennis in Frome is being put into administration with co-owner Felix Dennis describing it as “a sad day for British book printing”.


The factory floor at BT&D in Frome

BT&D cited uncertainties over its existing site, ongoing losses and prevailing market conditions as being behind the decision. The business will be shut down with the loss of 100 jobs.

Its site is being redeveloped and the firm’s lease ran out last year. It had negotiated an extension but was unable to find alternative premises.

Chief executive Gerald White said: “We have to be off this site by 14 September. I’ve spent nine months looking for an alternative site and have been unable to do so.

“I started looking at a 25 mile radius and eventually widened that to 100 miles, but still couldn’t find the type of unit we need with the necessary power and right type of floor. The costs of converting standard warehouse buildings would be many millions.”

Employees were told of the decision this afternoon (13 May).

Co-owner Felix Dennis, the flamboyant publishing magnate who rescued the business in 2008, was out of the country and unable to address staff personally.

He issued a statement that described the UK printing industry as “losing one of its shining stars.”

He said: “It is with a heavy heart that I have supported the board decision to place Butler Tanner & Dennis Ltd into administration. Since my involvement in 2008, I have invested a great deal of time, money and energy to help create a sustainable book printing business in Frome.

“However site issues and challenging market conditions have ultimately forced our hand. It is an extremely sad day for British book printing to lose this fantastic accumulation of talent and heritage. I am indebted to past and present staff at Frome and to customers and suppliers for all their support, hard work and dedication. I would also like to thank my partner, Gerald White, for his valuable support throughout this difficult and challenging process.”

BT&D’s map printing operation is not included in the administration and is set to continue, although it will need to relocate unless space can be allocated for it on the redeveloped Frome site.

The firm was awarded a four-year contract by Ordnance Survey in 2010.

Dennis said that other parts of the business could potentially be salvaged and moved to other locations.

Parent Butler Tanner & Dennis Holdings had sales of £13.5m (2011: £16.2m) in the year to 31 December 2012 and made a pre-tax loss of £860k (2011 loss: £2m).

White said the fortunes of the multi-award-winning business had improved since the merger with his Berforts Information Press business last summer.

“We have turned it around very well, but not well enough. We made tremendous strides and took costs out. But in the end the shareholders thought it wasn’t viable. This is a sad day and not what I got into business for."

He said he hoped to minimise the job losses.

Richard Rones of Thornton Rones is set to be appointed as BT&D’s administrator.

White said it was too early to tell what the situation would mean for the company’s creditors.

BT&D runs large-format sheetfed presses from Heidelberg and KBA, Kodak digital print kit and a raft of specialist book binding equipment.

The printer's origins stretch back to 1845 when founder WT Butler opened a printing works in Frome.

The Berforts Information Press sites in Hastings, Stevenage and Eynsham are unaffected.


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