ICSM Business – Print Industry Insolvency News: puzzlement surrounds what happened at a ‘well run family firm’ that’s gone bust

ICSM Business – Print Industry Insolvency News: puzzlement surrounds what happened at a ‘well run family firm’ that’s gone bust

By Harry Mottram: a few years ago I was working as a reporter for Print Monthly and I visited Severn Print in Gloucestershire and couldn’t fault such a well-run family firm. Now that example of how to run a successful printing company is in tatters as it is liquidated.

Writing in the trade publication Print Week Dominic Bernard reported: “Severn Print has entered liquidation just four months after being purchased by the Handel Group, after a key client pulled its £1.5m contract.”

Who the key client was he didn’t say but adding some context he reported: “Severn was bought by the Handel Group, umbrella company to Smogur’s litho ESP and digital ESP Smile print firms, on 11 October, following discussions in the summer. Handel took on Severn’s digital business only, representing around 80 of 90 staff employed, and sold Severn’s litho kit – a pair of Speedmasters – using the proceeds to pay down ‘a big chunk’ of Severn’s existing debt. Severn itself had been bought by Mark Allington, formerly of CPI Books, in a 2020 MBO of previous directors Ian Smith and Martin Clegg. Smith and Clegg themselves bought out Severn Print's employee trust in 2018. Allington joined Handel as CTO as part of the purchase.”

An industry source contacted ICSM about fears that Severn was ceasing trading following its take-over. That source thought that ESP Colour in Swindon whose parent company is the Handel Group bought Severn Print in December last year and thinks it may have moved its customer base from the Gloucestershire based firm to ESP.

At the time Print Week reported that, ‘The acquisition of Severn Print has roughly doubled Handel’s digital business, joining the rapidly-growing ESP Smile to form a bloc of around £15m for the group.’ That may or may not account for Print Week quoting director Simon Smogur who held an online meeting of creditors on 8 February 2024.

He told Printweek: “The Group acquired Severn with good intentions. However, shortly after the acquisition it became very clear that a key contract representing circa £1.5m of revenue had been lost. The revenue associated to this account started to reduce rapidly shortly after our acquisition. We were not made aware of expecting this. This unfortunately meant the business could no longer service its debt and the only outcome was to place the business into liquidation. I want to express that the other trading [businesses] in the group will continue to trade successfully as they have done, and I want to apologise to any [Severn Print] creditor or employee impacted. It’s now very clear that with or without our input the business would have gone down this route with such a significant contract loss.”

ICSM understands that some suppliers to Severn Print may also be suppliers to ESP meaning they may have unsecured debts with the liquidated firm but have the consolation of trading with the Swindon outfit.

One comment from a reader of Print Week who summed up what was something of a mystery of how things have gone downhill so quickly since the take-over wrote: “Sad end to a well-respected local company. Always heard it was a good, well run family firm. However, since 2018 it seems the wheels fell off somewhat with multiple owners and it lost its direction. Although still surprising news from ESP, so soon after they brought it.”

Print Week said in their story: “Smogur declined to comment on whether Handel was considering legal action.”



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