GBCC Acquisition By Ling’s Owners To Conclude “Imminently”

David Byk, ceo of Swan Mill Group (owner of Ling Design and Penny Kennedy) spent most of yesterday (27 August) at the GBCC’s Gloucester offices in an effort to conclude the deal to buy the goodwill and assets of the Great British Card Company (GBCC).

“We are nearly there,” David Byk told PG Buzz this morning (28 August). “It is progressing well and finalisation is imminent.”

This follows the announcement, shared by PG Buzz last Friday (23 August), just before the Bank Holiday weekend that ‘advanced talks’ were underway between BDO Stoy Hayward (appointed as administrative receivers) and Swan Mill. (https://www.pgbuzz.net/lings-owners-in-advanced-talks-to-acquire-gbccs-assets-from-administrative-receivers/)

In a statement, issued by Swan Mill, it said that the deal is expected to be concluded very early this week ‘at which point all deliveries of everyday, Christmas, charity and Waterwells’ brokerage stock is expected to continue as usual’.

1B. GBCC Image 21-08-2019 at 16.07David Byk, ceo of Swan Mill told PG Buzz that all parties worked hard over the Bank Holiday weekend in pursuit of concluding the deal in order to “give the customers, employees, licensors and suppliers the reassurance that this well-known and well respected company will continue to supply their fantastic greeting cards for many years to come.”

Although it has been no secret that the Great British Card Company (GBCC) had been having financial difficulties for some time, the appointment of BDO Stoy Hayward as administrative receivers at the end of last week, was a sad day for the UK greeting card industry. Having traded for almost 40 years, and with an annual turnover of over £12 million, this is the industry’s largest and most significant card publishing casualty in many years, coming a few months after the demise of Gemma International (in June) and Grass Roots/Write from the Heart (in April).

Above: David Byk, ceo of Swan Mill with Ling’s marketing manager Amelia Strawson at the recent Retas awards.
Above: David Byk, ceo of Swan Mill with Ling’s marketing manager Amelia Strawson at the recent Retas awards.

This announcement was issued shortly after the Great British Card Company (GBCC) appointed following several attempts to save the business failed.

It had been hoped that GBCC and its brokerage arm, Waterwells Distribution would be sold as a going concern, thereby safeguarding jobs and creditors’ monies owing. Early last week it was also mooted that application would be made for a CVA, whereby, if agreed by 75% of creditors, then a percentage of monies owed would be repaid in a structured payback, but this option was deemed not possible. A pre-pack deal with Swan Mill then came to the fore.

It is therefore end of an era for Gloucester-based GBCC, one of the longest established players in the industry. The brainchild of Peter Reichwald, who started the company in his garage in 1980, the business has grown, organically and acquisitively, encompassing both humour and art brands, such as Royle, Almanac Gallery (acquired in 2013), Eric the Penguin, Medici (under licence), Darkroom and Avanti Press (through a distribution agreement). It addition to its main card publishing business, the company also had forged relationships with many charities for whom it has published bespoke Christmas cards. In addition is the Waterwells Distribution arm, through which it has brokered in some 50 other card publishers’ products to supply various retailers, including Fenwick’s Colchester store and some of the Blue Diamond  garden centres.

Above: The ebullient Peter Reichwald (left) who founded the company (and remains a shareholder) in 1980 and Chris Wilcox, having been involved in the business since the start, became md on 1 July 2017. Last year he was presented with the Greenfingers Charity Outstanding Contribution Award 2018 for all the work the publisher has done to raise funds through the sale of its Floreo range.
Above: The ebullient Peter Reichwald (left) who founded the company (and remains a shareholder) in 1980 and Chris Wilcox, having been involved in the business since the start, became md on 1 July 2017. Last year he was presented with the Greenfingers Charity Outstanding Contribution Award 2018 for all the work the publisher has done to raise funds through the sale of its Floreo range.

Though still involved as a shareholder, Peter officially retired from the business on June 30 2017, when he handed over the day-to-day reins of being managing director to Chris Wilcox, his business partner since the start. (https://www.pgbuzz.net/peter-reichwald-hands-over-the-reins-of-gbcc/)

The deal, if concluded with Swan Mill will more than double the size of the group’s greeting card interests. Having acquired Ling Design in 2015 it bought the Saffron card publishing business last year.

The company appeared in the International Fast Track 200 league last year, highlighting it as one of the UK’s top 200 mid market private companies with the fastest growing overseas sales. (https://www.pgbuzz.net/ling-designs-holding-company-is-one-of-uks-fastest-growing-exporters/)

Top: The Gloucester HQ of GBCC and Waterwells Distribution.

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