Historic Banbury firm saved in management buyout

Henry Stone NNL-160714-093329001
Henry Stone NNL-160714-093329001

A Banbury printing firm under threat of closure has secured its future after a management buyout from its parent company was finalised.

Management and staff at Henry Stone printers on the Wildmere Industrial Estate are finally letting out a sigh of relief after negotiations to keep the company afloat and viable were finalised last month.

A selection of titles printed by Henry Stone NNL-160714-094139001

A selection of titles printed by Henry Stone NNL-160714-094139001

The company, established in 1826, was under threat of closure due to the collapse of its parent company Polestar, which went into administration in April.

In a shock to the printing industry Polestar UK, the biggest commercial and publications printer with a turnover of £216 million, went from riches to rags and was attempting to jettison smaller firms under its control in an effort to regain control of its loses.

Polestar Stone, as it was then called, was mooted to be one such casualty unless a buyout option was found.

Richard Walsh, Mark Scurr, Steve Ottley and Richard Hinchliffe, all employees of the firm, stepped up to the plate and, risking their own personal investment and with additional financial backing from Thames Valley Capital,secured a management buyout (MBO). The MBO has also secured the 100 or so jobs at Wheatons Exeter, printer of books directories and catalogues, which enjoys a mutually beneficial, noncompetitive relationship with Henry Stone printers.

Managing director Richard Walsh said: “I worked here about 10 or 15 years ago and we looked into buying it then but things didn’t work out. I came back about two-and-a-half years ago as a consultant for Polestar who were the owners at the time.

“We are only a small part of the group and were originally owned by Polestar Bicester, so we were a very small cog in a very big wheel so it was never a core part of the business.”

Having been in the town for almost 200 years however, Henry Stone, is a very large part of the town’s history and has intimately ingrained itself into the town’s DNA with many families having ties to the company.

It was this sense of history and togetherness that was the overriding driving force behind the management team’s buyout bid as Mr Walsh explained: “This business has been in Banbury since 1826, it’s got a heritage and a history and a fantastic reputation in the marketplace and it would be an absolute crying shame for it not to be a part of the print industry any more.”

“The people here are longtermers, very loyal, very dedicated staff.”

The MBO is being approached in a systematic manner with a three phase process to guide it through the changes it will undergo. Phase one is focused on the survival of the company and ensuring the essentials like payroll, customers, supplier relationships and cash flow are in order.

Phase two will concentrate on rebuilding the brand as it reverts to its traditional name of Henry Stone and tries to distance itself from the Polestar brand.

The final stage will focus on growth both in the market place and as a company as possible apprenticeships will be offered to inject new blood into the age-old industry.

For now, however, the mood at Henry Stone is one of excitement and relief as every member of staff are now pulling in the same direction, towards a shared goal.

Mr Walsh said: “ I want to make this a family business again and that ethos is really important to us, because if it becomes family then you fight for it.”