Liquidators have at last been appointed at Stones Ashford, four weeks after the site ceased operations.
Paul Ellison and Gareth Roberts of KRE Corporate Recovery were appointed at one minute to midnight last night (13 December).
Part of the delay to their appointment was because energy supplier E.On had lodged a winding-up petition against the business that was due to be heard on 20 January, which left the firm unable to act.
“Common sense has prevailed and E.On agreed to withdraw the petition once we were appointed, so the liquidation date will be yesterday,” Ellison told PrintWeek.
The firm’s 120 employees were not paid in November, prior to being made redundant on 1 December. They can now claim for their missing wages, statutory notice, and redundancy subject to the official maximum of £489 per week.
“We can now process all the employee claims with the Department of Employment. About 70% of them have already loaded their claims onto the system,” he added.
Phil Silkstone, Unite regional officer, said: “Unite is glad that following discussions with both Unite and KRE, E.On has now dropped its court case which was preventing redundancy payments being made from the government.
“Sadly it might still mean employees don’t receive their money before Christmas, but we have also been in contact with The Printing Charity, which can assist those in need through its hardship fund.”
Silkstone also derided the lack of action from Stones Ashford’s directors, and called for an official investigation into their conduct. “The company itself was not helpful. It’s very unusual for a company to ignore the process in a situation like this,” he added.
Henry Stone Printers managing director Richard Walsh has not responded to requests for comment.
Following the firm’s collapse, some workers had also voiced concerns that HMRC seemed to be unaware of their employment status at Stones Ashford. Ellison said employees would not be disadvantaged by any issues that arose.
“If there is something deficient in the company’s records that won’t bounce back on the employees – it’s not their fault,” he said.
KRE is also surrendering the lease on the Ashford premises today (14 December).
The site was owned by Lithecat Properties, a company associated with the former owners of Headley Brothers, although Lithecat had been marketing the property for sale earlier this year.
Most of the firm’s equipment, which includes two web presses and two B1 long perfecting sheetfed presses, is subject to finance agreements. The sale of the kit is being organised by the finance holders, which include Close Asset.
Any unencumbered assets will be sold as part of the liquidation process.
KRE was appointed by the directors of Stones Ashford and will be paid for its services using the proceeds of a recent VAT repayment.
The firm also handled the administration of book printer Wheatons Exeter earlier this year, which was owned by the same investors as Stones Ashford.
Precision Colour Printing, Buxton Press and Manson Group are understood to have picked up some of the work previously printed at Stones Ashford.