Jason Baker and Philip Armstrong of FRP Advisory were appointed joint administrators on 25 June. The company was then marketed as a going concern, during which time a number of potential buyers expressed an interest, with several making offers.
However, the offer by the firm’s founder Maurice Grainger was chosen as the strongest bid, resulting in him buying the company back on 4 July.
“This has been a transformational restructuring for Alpine Press. The administration process has ensured that the business has emerged in a more robust position to continue servicing its customers’ needs under the ownership of a New Company overseen by the same, experienced management team,” said Baker.
Grainger founded the company in the mid 1960s, growing it to a £5m business that employed 49 staff. The administrators laid off 14 staff, primarily across production and admin, shortly after their appointment.
“When I founded this company, 47 years ago I didn’t think I would be in this situation today, but the margin has just got tighter and tighter,” said Grainger.
The Kings Langsley-based commercial litho and digital printer recorded sales of £4.9m and pre-tax losses of £235,000 in 2011, although according to Grainger it had clawed back to break even in 2012.
“I don’t think that many in the industry could deny that there has been a definite downturn since last November. But we have also been unfortunate in that in the past 18 months, we have picked up over £200,000 of bad debt,” said Grainger.
The company was hit by one customer alone to the tune of £90,000.
“We’ve had to take them [the bad debts] and pay for all the paper and all the sundries on them and to try and make that kind of money up has become more and more difficult,” said Grainger.
“I’m sure that some people will look down their nose, thinking I’ve pre-packed or something. I haven’t. I don’t feel good about this at all, but at least I’ve saved 37 jobs. It’s been awful and I’m not in this position out of choice, but I’m hoping to keep these people employed.”
Grainger plans to consolidate the business from its current two buildings into a single unit to reduce overheads.
While he conceded that the market hasn’t got any easier, he said that he believed that by taking out some of the non-profitable work and realigning its cost base, then the underlying business is solid.
He added that customers had generally been very supportive.
“I haven’t not paid them [suppliers], and over my career I’ve spent nearly £30m in paper alone,” said Grainger, although he didn’t want to go into detail on the level of debt at the ‘old’ company.
“It wasn’t too bad, well I say that, if you owe anybody then that’s very bad. I know that better than most.”