Abrupt closure at Stones Ashford

By Jo Francis, Friday 17 November 2017

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Stones Ashford has been shut down abruptly after the company's power was cut off by its energy supplier.

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Henry Stone: staff sent home today (17 November)

The Kent web offset and sheetfed printing business is the former Headley Brothers operation that was purchased out of administration by the team behind Henry Stone of Banbury in March.

At the time it employed around 100 staff.

An employee told PrintWeek that failure to pay an outstanding electricity bill has resulted in the company shutting its doors.

"There have been rumours all week that the business owed E.On £80,000 for electricity and had until Friday to pay," the employee said. 

"At 3.30pm the power went off and everybody was sent home. We've also been told that we won't be paid this month."

Customers of Stones Ashford have been urgently seeking alternative printing arrangements.

“Clients are running for cover. I’ve had three publishers call me today,” one rival printer told PrintWeek.

“They are desperately looking to find someone to print for them. I don’t know what they’re being told but they’re running scared,” he added.

Stones Ashford is understood to have won some work on the basis of offering customers 90-day terms, described by another print boss as “ridiculous”.

"The work never materialised. I did wonder where is the business plan," the employee added.

Henry Stone chief executive Richard Walsh has not responded to requests for comment.

In July he told PrintWeek that the company was close to finalising a new lease on the Ashford site. “The web offset side has been a real breath of fresh air for us and is going really well. We have invested in maintenance and rebuilding some of the equipment, as well as in some additions to the team there,” he said at the time.

Ashford runs two web offset presses, a 16pp and a 24pp, and three Speedmaster 102 sheetfed presses, all with CutStars.

Separately, sheetfed operation Stones Banbury is currently in the process of installing a new 10-colour Speedmaster XL 106 with CutStar.

At the end of last month a new company, Henry Stone Holdings, was incorporated at Companies House. The directors are Walsh and group operations director Mark Scurr.

Walsh and Scurr are part of the MBO team that acquired the former Polestar Stones-Wheatons businesses from Polestar’s adminstrators in June 2016. The Wheatons business was subsequently shut down after being placed into administration in May following the loss of a major contract.

Henry Stone is backed by Thames Valley Capital. 

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