Ling’s Owners In Advanced Talks To Acquire GBCC’s Assets From Administrative Receivers

Swan Mill Group, owner of Ling Design and Penny Kennedy, is in advanced talks to buy the goodwill and assets of the Great British Card Company (GBCC).

1A. GBCC Image 21-08-2019 at 16.07In a statement, issued by Swan Mill, the deal is ‘expected to be concluded very early next week at which point all deliveries of everyday, Christmas, charity and Waterwells’ brokerage stock is expected to continue as usual’.

David Byk, ceo of Swan Mill told PG Buzz: “we will be working hard over the Bank Holiday weekend to look to conclude this deal so we can 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.”

Above: David Byk with Ling colleagues Ling Design’s (right-left) Clare Twigger and Amelia Strawson and culinary celebrity Prue Leith at PG Live.
Above: David Byk with Ling colleagues Ling Design’s (right-left) Clare Twigger and Amelia Strawson and culinary celebrity Prue Leith at PG Live.

This announcement was issued shortly after the Great British Card Company (GBCC) appointed BDO Stoy Hayward as administrative receivers following several attempts to save the business failed.

BDO Stoy Hayward’s Simon Girling is now understood to be finalising the details of a  ‘pre-pack’ deal for Swan Mill to acquire GBCC and its brokerage arm, Waterwells Distribution.

GBCC, (previously known, and is still often referred to, as Paper House) has been a UK greeting card publishing stalwart for almost 40 years and has an annual turnover of around £12 million.

GBCC’s recent financial problems have been well aired, but it was hoped that the company would be sold as a going concern, thereby safeguarding jobs and creditors’ monies owing. Earlier this 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.

Today (Friday 23 August) therefore marks 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: GBCC and Waterwells Distribution (which brokers 50 other publishers into certain accounts) operates from its Gloucester headquarters.

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