The situation appears particularly acute at Polestar Sheffield and Chantry. “We’re hearing that if there’s no realistic offer we will probably shut on Friday at the end of the day,” said a Polestar Sheffield employee.
Sources also said that publisher Hearst has moved “most” of its titles to the continent, apparently as a short-term measure to bridge the unfolding crisis in its supply chain. Its flagship glossies include Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Elle andEsquire and it also produces weeklies Best, Reveal, Inside Soap, and Real People.
Hearst declined to comment.
A source close to the Polestar situation said: “I predict that the north will close and there will then be a fight for Bicester’s assets. Things are moving quickly because this business is in a hell of a mess.”
PrintWeek understands that PwC’s original timescale involved bids being lodged earlier this week, with decisions to be made next week.
“We are hearing that there are four interested buyers, and five offers on the table. One doesn’t include Sheffield, two are for Sheffield alone, and two of the offers are for multiple sites,” said a Polestar insider.
Amid increasingly feverish speculation about what fate awaits the Polestar sites in administration, there are rumours that a newspaper or magazine publisher could potentially become involved with a rescue deal, including one theory that Time Inc senior vice-president of production Guy Gleysteen could even broker a deal involving US print group Quad/Graphics, which prints 85% of the publisher’s titles in the US.
The $4.7bn (£3.2bn) turnover Quad/Graphics business currently has just one plant in Europe, a web offset facility in Poland.
Gleysteen declined to comment when contacted by PrintWeek.
Wyndeham Group owner Walstead Investments and Prinovis are the only companies to have publicly stated their potential interest in parts of the business. However, issues regarding the Competition & Markets Authority are understood to be complicating matters for Walstead.
The CMA does not have a mandate to preserve UK jobs and it can take up to 40 working days to decide whether a case needs to be referred.
This has spurred the BPIF into lobbying the government about the Polestar crisis.
“We have raised concerns with high levels of government that delays in this [CMA] process could lead to the Polestar business closing and the possible loss of jobs,” said chief executive Charles Jarrold. “There is a potential problem here that anti-competitive concerns could lead to a worsening of the supply chain situation in the market.”
Walstead chairman Mark Scanlon warned last week that the UK could lose £100m worth of print if the Polestar plants closed.
As well as being sole print supplier to Time Inc UK, Polestar currently prints Hello!, the two Shortlist Media weekly titles, weekend supplements for newspaper publishers Trinity Mirror, Express Newspapers and Guardian Media Group, as well as a raft of titles for Bauer and Dennis Publishing.
It is also still printing for Daily Mail publisher DMG Media, which has served notice on the printer.
Separately, around 30 redundancies were made at book and journal printer Polestar Wheatons in Exeter yesterday afternoon (5 May), with insiders saying the operation had been downsized to a single shift.
PwC declined to comment while some employees were still in the process of being informed about redundancy.