Polestar UK Print and Polestar Stones-Wheatons have gone into administration, a month after the pre-pack sale of the group to Proventus.
Zelf Hussain and Peter Dickens of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) have been appointed joint administrators at the businesses today (25 April).
Polestar Applied Solutions and publisher River Group are not included in the administration and are not affected.
PrintWeek understands that Polestar’s biggest customer, newspaper publisher DMG Media, notified the group on Friday that it would not be novating its contract to the new business.
In a statement announcing the administration, PwC said: “The business had previously undergone a pre-packaged sale with the aim of protecting value and achieving stability. Unfortunately the decision by its largest customer not to transfer their business to the new company as well as continued pressure from other stakeholders has threatened the viability of the ongoing business to the extent that directors have sought the protection of an administration for the two companies.”
PwC is now looking for buyers for the businesses, which include the flagship gravure and web offset site at Sheffield, web offset sites Bicester and Chantry, sheetfed magazine printer Stones in Banbury, and book and journals printer Wheatons in Exeter.
The companies will continue to trade in administration, and PwC emphasised that employees would be paid as normal.
Polestar employs around 1,500 staff (including Applied Solutions), as well as agency workers. The £216.4m group is the UK's biggest publication printer and prints some 50m magazines a week.
PwC’s Hussain said: “We believe that there is a strong underlying business within the group and we are focused on doing all we can to preserve value and maintain the business while we look to achieve a sale. We would welcome a dialogue with all interested parties and ask that suppliers and customers work with us to try to deliver a lasting solution for the business.”
Wyndeham Group owner Walstead Investments and Prinovis have already been mooted as potential buyers for some of the sites.
Walstead chairman Mark Scanlon had previously said that Walstead would be interested in buying all or part of Polestar, while Prinovis had looked at the Bicester business when it went into administration under former owner Goodhead Group.
PrintWeek revealed earlier that a huge question mark had been hoisted over Polestar's DMG contract.
A major industry supplier said: “This is unbelievable. There will be some very worried publishers out there. What a mess.”
This story will be updated.