The future ownership of the Howard Hunt group of companies appears to be up in the air, with the business understood to be facing a financial crunch with lender Santander.
The Kent-headquartered group encompasses a number of related businesses: £53m direct mail printing operation Howard Hunt (City), data business Celerity Communications, digital strategy firm Or Multimedia (ORM) and print management firm Graft Solutions.
The overall group employs around 400 staff.
The situation is complicated because, according to the latest filings at Companies House, the firms have a number of cross-guarantees relating to a financing facility of up to £18.5m with Santander, which was extended in 2017. The facility includes trade finance, asset leasing, and a bank loan of £7m that was due to be repaid on 4 May.
Speculation about the group has reached fever pitch over the past week, with a number of companies understood to have run the rule over the business. Paragon Group, Walstead Group and HH Global were among the parties linked to a possible purchase of all or parts of the business.
Howard Hunt Group chief executive Luke Pigott was also linked with a possible bid for Celerity Communications.
Pigott has not commented.
A source close to the situation said: “It’s very complicated to do a transaction in there, because of the history of the business and how it is all intertwined.”
Howard Hunt (City) filed a notice of intention to appoint an administrator on 8 May, which gives the business protection from any potential actions by creditors.
The firm claims a leading position in direct mail and produces more than 600m direct mail packs a year, alongside a billion door drops and 3bn inserts.
It works for a raft of blue-chip customers spanning retailers, charities and brands including M&S, John Lewis, Boden, Sky, Age UK, Next, the National Trust and Cancer Research UK.
Howard Hunt managing director Danny Clarke resigned as a director of the business on 31 March, with the relevant filing appearing at Companies House earlier this month. PrintWeek understands Clarke is still with the business, but he could not be reached for comment at the time of writing.